For those living downtown or here on a short-term stay, getting a cat fix has never been easier thanks to cat cafes. Utsunomiya City has two that I know of. The cafes meet a demand for cat-time, and down time. Cats create a laid-back atmosphere, lounging here and there. One o`clock on a sunny Thursday and we mounted the stairs leading up to the second floor Cat Café Nekomiya. This cafe is near the covered shopping arcade, Orion Street, near Tobu Department Store in Utsunomiya.
Consider your outfit before you go. Do you want to play with the cats on the hot carpet? A short skirt may be awkward, cat fur shows up on black. Slip on shoes are best as you will need to put on slippers in a narrow space. You should also spray your hands with the sanitizer they have at the door. The staff will ask you to don a badge around your neck with your starting time written on a card, and they will explain the rules: no flash photographs of the cats, no cats on the tables, no feeding the cats or offering them any beverage you order, no teasing or surprising the cats, no waking them or carrying them around. We were two English speaking foreigners and a child, not the typical patrons of this cafe. The staff may have been unsettled by us, given the language barrier.
Cat cafés charge by time. At this café, you pay ￥300 per person for the first thirty minutes, plus ￥100 yen per person for each additional ten minutes after that. Stay three hours or more and pay a flat rate or ￥1,800 per person. The café homepage explains that this is to cover cat medical expanses and the cost of cat food and kitty litter.
We came for a late lunch. Water and menus were laid out promptly but then I didn't see any staff on the floor so I went up to the register to order. While we waited for our order, we walked around and checked out the cats, most of whom were fast asleep. The cats have lots of places to hide, climb and snooze. We took off our slippers and got down on our knees on the hot carpet. Inside a box of cat toys there, we discovered another cat snoozing. My son played and petted with the cats while I supervised to ensure he didn't bother them.
A lunch set is ¥1200 including a main dish, soup, salad and a drink. Keeping my budget in mind, I opted for mushroom and spinach spaghetti, spaghetti with carbonara, avocado gratin and mini pizza toast. For two ladies and a child, I over-ordered. The servings were ample and rich, probably made with plenty of bacon, butter and cream. I moved the table closer to the bench so my son could reach his food. He made do with an adult spoon. This isn't the best destination for families with kids under the age of 10. The cats claws are probably clipped but kids want to play and touch and most cats just want to sleep.
Nekomiya offers many kinds of tea, coffee, juice, and soft drinks. If you drop by in the evening you can indulge in wine, gin-based or vodka-based cocktails, liqueurs or beer. Costs range from ￥500 to ￥1000 per glass. Desserts cost about ￥500 per serving. How about sharing a French Toast Cat Tower consisting of four toasts and a choice of flavoring (￥980)?
Our bill came to just under ￥5,000. We were there for an hour and a bit. The café looks after the cats well it appears, and facilitates adoptions. Your patronage supports the welfare of the cats. Nekomiya's homepage also notes that they accept donations of cat toys, cypress kitty litter, and a certain type of cat food, printer paper, and toilet paper.