This morning, Poul and I jumped on the busy Yamanote line to Shibuya. Our plan was to visit the cat cafe Hapi Neko, but it was easier said than done, as Hapi Neko was tucked away on the 3rd floor in a building we couldn’t find, and all the signs were in Japanese.Just when we were about to give up, we finally saw a sign that had an image of a cat and some paw prints on it and knew, that we had finally come to the right place.
Cat cafes are popular throughout Japan and in Tokyo alone there are over 30 to choose among. You pay a cover charge to spend a limited amount of time in the company of felines in a quiet environment. That may sound a little odd, but bear in mind that housing is expensive in Tokyo, and most people live in small apartments and are not allowed to keep pets.
Some people may argue that this kind of showcasing cannot really be in the cats’ best interest, but the cats at Hapi Neko really seemed to enjoy the attention. There are strict rules regarding feeding (all human food is forbidden), and you are also not allowed to lift the cats, or otherwise stress them in any way. The café has designated places for the cats to hide, when they get tired, or when they need some me(eow)-time, and big signs state that waking up a sleeping cat is strictly prohibited.
We paid 1575yen per person for an hour in the company of cats, a hot drink and a biscuit. Before we were let loose with those wild furry animals, we had to take off our shoes and disinfect our hands properly in a separate room. All bags were left in the door, so the cats didn’t get exposed to any unnecessary germs from outside.
Almost immediately after we sat down in one of the café’s soft, pink sofas, a sweet, gray cat jumped in my lap, and it decided to stay there during the whole visit. The cats were really cute, but the true highlight of our visit was to see how those spoilt four-legged creatures wowed all the Japanese visitors, who followed every single move the cats made with a fascinated look on their face.
At Napi Neko’s website, you can find detailed information about each cat and small comic strips in Japanese featuring the cats. The café also has a blog with pictures of the cats, so you can keep up with what your favorite feline is doing.
Hapi Neko was a really nice place to be and such a delightful contrast to Shibuya’s noisy streets outside. The one hour we had paid for passed so fast in this peaceful haven, and I fully understand that stressed out business people gladly spend their yens on a few relaxing hours in the company of the cats on their way home from work.
The cat café Hapi Neko provides a relaxing oasis in the middle of Shibuya’s hustle and bustle. 30 minutes in company with the cats cost ¥1050 and includes a soft drink (hot or cold) and a biscuit. Visitors are asked to respect the animals’ health and wellbeing, and you are therefore not allowed to lift the cats, wake a sleeping cat or approach the cats if they do not themselves seek contact. You also have to remove your shoes and wash your hands before entering the café.
Whether you are a cat-lover or not, Hapi Neko is definitely worth a visit. In addition to the cozy feline company, you get a unique insight into a strange, but also very fascinating, part of Japanese culture.
• Flash photography is not allowed
Hapi Neko is now permanently closed