Cats, Robots and the Art of Presentation

I hate cats. 

Despite this aversion, I decided to visit a "cat café" in Tokyo, believing it would be as interesting as the canine version I visited in Seoul. Finding one was like finally coming across the needle in the haystack though. Because space is at a premium in Asia, malls are built vertically … and they are all really, really high. In addition, signage is primarily in Japanese which I can't read. This proved especially inconvenient the day I got on the wrong train and ended up in a completely different city. But I digress. While out walking one day, I chanced upon a sign with a bunch of feline silhouettes on it and figured it was either a genuine cat café or a pet shop. Either way, with the temperature reaching 35 degrees celsius by 8:00am, I thought I would check it out if only to enjoy the air conditioning. Sidenote: if you are not planning on climbing Mount Fuji, then avoid visiting Japan during the summer months. The heat is unbearable. 

After getting into a really old, creaky elevator and making my way up, up, up, I entered the Calico Cat Café in Shinjuku. It was not what I expected. Well, it was but it wasn't. There were cats. Plenty of miserable cats giving me the evil eye. They probably could sense my Monty, as they seemed keen to interact with the other people there, which included a number of tourists. I did not feel welcome in their domain though. I wandered about and tried to feign interest but I left after 10 minutes. Cost of this was 1000 Yen (approximately $10 CDN) and I didn't even get a drink. 

I love dogs. 


There has been much press about the astronomical price of certain produce in Japan, such as watermelons selling for $12,000 U.S. While this madness does exist in the high-end department stores – I can confirm seeing a handful of grapes for over 10,800 Yen  ($108.00 U.S.) – it is not the norm. Certain foods are slightly more expensive than in North America, but you don't need to re-mortgage your home to try them.

My favourite place to get lunch is the food hall of Takashimaya, which is located across the street from my hotel. Anything you can imagine is available here. All fresh. All super delicious. The service level and packaging are also second to none. As a designer, I am always impressed with the level of presentation that the Japanese dedicate to everything they do. There is an art to existing here that I wish were more prevalent in North America. 


Now in terms of presentation, the Robot Restaurant is also in a league of its own. I admit, I was initially skeptical. It seemed interesting but also super-cheesy. A part of me was scared to develop seizures at the crazy amount of clashing colours and lights. I was also worried that a robot assault was imminent, as the hostess repeatedly reminded those in the front row (where I was seated) to LEAN BACK in their chairs so as not to get hit during the performance.  

After visiting, all I have to say is that this is the greatest cheese in the universe. The Robot Restaurant is amazing and worth every penny. It is a completely unique Japanese experience; I cannot imagine anything like this anywhere else on the planet. It must be seen to be understood (and even then, it is an enigma), but all I will say is that there are beautiful dancing women, an epic brawl involving a panda, and plenty of robots. Giant, awesome robots. 

 Calico Cat Café in Tokyo (©Deborah Clague)

Calico Cat Café in Tokyo (©Deborah Clague)

 Calico Cat Café in Tokyo (©Deborah Clague)

Calico Cat Café in Tokyo (©Deborah Clague)

 Tokyo signage (©Deborah Clague)

Tokyo signage (©Deborah Clague)

 Lounge act at the Robot Restaurant, Tokyo (©Deborah Clague)

Lounge act at the Robot Restaurant, Tokyo (©Deborah Clague)

 Sitting in the lounge at the Robot Restaurant, Tokyo (©Deborah Clague)

Sitting in the lounge at the Robot Restaurant, Tokyo (©Deborah Clague)

I am in love: