Konichiwa from Tokyo!
Just got home after being smoked out of a yakitori restaurant near Ueno in north Tokyo, (well north of central Tokyo, north Tokyo is about 60 km further up) our lungs ruptured, eyes stinging but bellies full, oh and of course wallets completely empty. The place was tiny as is de rigeur for all restaurants here, with lanterns adorning the entrance and booths marginally larger than bird boxes for the customers. There was the poor guy working the grill behind the glass divide, plumes of smoke engulfing his poor sweaty face as he turned various parts of chicken. There was the waiter who wore a ninja headband and said “Hai!” a lot, which means ‘yes’ but more forcefully. And there was the really drunk old boy in the corner who tried to tell us how much he liked the Rolling Stones. He made his front teeth move with his tongue and said he was just like Mick Jagger. Anyway, it was another fantastic eating experience here in Tokyo, marked confidently high between the X axis of ‘Delicious’ and Y axis of ‘Weird.’ Sometimes, the mark deviates slightly, none more so than our visit to a Cat Café in Shibuya, one of the more hectic areas of the city.
First up, for those who haven’t got round to going, a cat café is a café with cats in it.
Second up, this one had loads of rules, which we were handed in laminated A4 sheets upon arrival by a stern looking old woman from behind a counter. Things like, ‘don’t touch any cats with collars,’ and ‘roll up your trouser legs if they are too long.’ There were diagrams of how to pick up cats but then strict instructions on not picking them up unless they wanted to. As we all know, no cat wants to be picked up ever.
We ordered our coffees, which had porcelain lids on top, I guess in case the cats fancied a dip, and took a seat. The place resembled a crèche but populated by awkward adults and even more awkward cats.
The cats wondered around aimlessly, their dead eyes reminiscent of washed out strippers avoiding contact with customers that only wanted a touch.*
The place was deadly silent, save for the occasional bell of a cat toy rolling like tumbleweed across the pink carpet. Then someone ordered a cup of cat food and the place went batshit crazy. It was like Jurassic Park. Cats started fighting and leaping on people. Catriona tried to get a photo of this and sat on a cushioned box in the centre of the room. The old lady who had remained mute up to this point, came bounding of her booth like the wifey in Tom and Jerry, yelling a stream of Japanese expletives and muddled English at her. Apparently, the cushioned box was not for humans. The cats continued to kill each other.
Soon enough our 30 minutes were up and we stumbled out into the light. Turns out the woman who ran the Cat Café was legitimately a crazy old cat lady and we’d just paid her a lot of money to keep her animals hostage in a pink padded prison. I’ve heard they’ve opened a similar venture in Edinburgh, so this sort of thing is either becoming normal or we’re all getting weirder. Guess there’s a graph for that sort of thing. Meow.
* Joke/Observation initially made by Catriona Elizabeth Brennan Rist at 3.30PM on 30.04.2016