Japan's Fascination with Cats

A lot of people go to Japan because they have so many amazing World Heritage Sights, like temples, castles, shrines, etc.  Although I enjoyed seeing those things, I was more amazed by the everyday stuff that makes you go hmmmm....  And there was plenty.  What really surprised me was the fascination with cats.

Most people in Japan live in small living spaces in larger apartment buildings. Because of this, they don't have pets.  But just like Americans, they LOVE pets. Especially cats, apparently.  There are Cat Cafes popping up all over the larger cities.  For about $10, you pay a cover charge and get a cup of tea at a cat cafe and can pet or watch kitties for an hour.   There are loads of rules about how this happens.  You sanitize your hands, can't pet kitties that don't want attention, have to leave sleeping cats lie, can't use flash photography, etc.  In Tokyo, there are nearly 40 cafes to choose from.  The one we were near was in Asakusa and even has a Facebook page where you can follow the lives of the cats who live there.  The great thing is that these cafes tend to develop by taking in cats that are homeless and giving them a loving home.  We rarely saw cats outdoors in parks or in alleyways, so I'm guessing they don't have a huge problem with stray cats.  These cats get plenty of loving, if they want it.  The customers pay to do it.  It must be a good thing.

You can rent pets, including ferrets, cats, and dogs.  Japan has made it cool to take in a pet for the weekend or just a couple of hours to entertain grandkids who are visiting.  There's even a Japanese movie about a woman who rents out cats, called Rent a Cat.

Hello Kitty is a major phenomenon with a cult following.  You can buy anything with the cute little cat that has no mouth.  Have you looked at the number of apps available on iTunes for this kitty?  Apparently the love isn't just in Japan.  And age has no bearing on your love affair with Hello Kitty.  You can even download a Hello Kitty camera app so she can be in all your vacation photos.
Don't be caught without your Hello Kitty umbrella

Loved the kitty skirt on this girl.  See the eyes and nose?
OMG!  Total cuteness!

And can you believe there's a Cat Museum in Ito?  You can learn about the history of cats, as well as see 50 live cats of as many as 30 species.  Who would have thought something like that could happen and that people would pay to see it?  I was disappointed that we didn't have time to visit, but we'll put it on the list for next time.  For all you cat lovers, Japan is the coolest place for you!


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