In an increasingly childless and aging nation, cat cafes fill a void. The more fortunate Japanese are the middle-aged couples who cradle Dachshunds like grandchildren at car dealerships and the young women who hand feed their Maltese puppies on park benches. For those who live with long work hours, no-pet apartments and work-related travel, there are cat cafes.
I first heard of Calico cat cafe when it opened in March 2007, but then it was an oddity and the preserve of lonely women and cat fanciers. It is now staggeringly popular. This March it opened a second branch in the high-rent Shinjuku business and shopping district. Last October it published a glossy coffee table book featuring its "feline staff." The original branch is so packed that reservations are recommended on weekends.
Browsing in a bookstore, I found 39 establishments listed in the "cat cafe yellow page" section of a magazine. Calico advertises itself as a great "date spot," a place to make "friends" -- both cats and humans -- and a "fun place" to swing by after work.