Last week, it snowed in Tokyo for the first time this winter. When it snows, it always reminds me of the part of the lyric of Japanese children's song called "Yuki (Snow)," which sings like this; "when it snows, dogs are running around the yard in joy, cats are warming themselves in the house." Today's column is about the one that cannot stand the cold winter.
Recently in Japan, cat craze has been a national phenomenon. For example, a mobile app that let you raise cats became so popular that it has been downloaded more than 13 million times! Also, even a word "Nekonomics (cat economics)" has been created.
Let me introduce two unique places in Tokyo for the cat-lovers all over the world!
This is Gotokuji in Setagaya Ward. It is a five-minute walk from Miyanosaka station of Tokyu Setagaya Line. Although it is in the middle of the residential area, its vast premise makes you forget that you're in Tokyo.
What is so attractive about this temple? Well, look at these cat dolls!
These cat dolls are called "Maneki-neko (beckoning cat)." As it is believed to bring money and good luck, many shops and restaurants place Maneki-neko in their office. People dedicate Maneki-neko to Gotokuji because it has been said that Gotokuji is one of the birthplaces of Maneki-neko.
In the premise, a lot of Ema were placed besides Maneki-neko. Ema is a wooden plaque to which people write prayers and wishes. And of course, the picture of Maneki-neko is depicted on it. I found wishes written in various languages, such as English, Chinese, Thai, and Vietnamese. I also met a solo traveler from Australia who found out about the place on the Internet. Well, it seems that Nekonomics (cat economics) is a world phenomenon.
You can buy and dedicate Maneki-neko from 300 yen, so you could try it if you want to bring good luck to your life. Unfortunately, I couldn't dedicate Maneki-neko or Ema because the office was closed that day. I must come back some other time!
Cafe Arles where everyone becomes a cat lover
Next venue I'd like to share is Cafe Arles in Shinjuku. It is about a five-minute walk from Shinjuku-sanchome Station of Toei Shinjuku Line. Here, there are two celebrity cats that make every customer fascinated.
This is Jirocho. He is such a hardworking cat that he is busy serving the customers by walking around the tables, and even goes out of the cafe for advertising (or maybe just for a walk).
And the other one is called Ishimatsu. Unlike Jirocho, Ishimatsu is not an active type. The owner of the cafe told me that Ishimatsu is sleeping almost all the time. I looked for Ishimatsu, and found him sleeping in the vacant seat.
While I was talking with the owner, Jirocho came next to me and started taking a nap.
It was very peaceful watching him sleep, but before long he woke up and gone away. Did I do something that made him uncomfortable...?
I watched them wandering around and noticed that the customers play with Jirocho and Ishimatsu only when they come to you. I think this well-balanced relationship between the cats and the customers is the secret of the peaceful atmosphere in Cafe Arles.
To tell the truth, I'm more of a dog-loving person, but I was totally fascinated by the two.
I'll see you again Jirocho and Ishimatsu!
About Cafe Arles
If you are planning to visit Tokyo and also happened to be a cat-loving person, you might not want to miss Gotokuji and Cafe Arles. And of course, it is also recommended to those of you who are not that much of a cat lover, like me.