From Hello Kitty to cat cafes and entire cat islands, Japan is a wonderful place for cat lovers to visit. There are also an array of cat shrines and cat temples found throughout Japan, meaning there is no shortage of sites for furry feline friends. In Japanese culture, cats are meant to represent good luck and good fortune and bring money to those who cross their path. Check out some of the best things to do in Tokyo for cat lovers
Maneki-neko “Beckoning Cat”
A symbol and major part of Japanese culture, maneki-neko, literally translates to beckoning cat and can be seen all over Japan. It is believed that maneki-neko will bring good luck. It is most common to see these figurines at the entrances of shops and restaurants but will see a variety of depictions. For a cat lover visiting Japan, bringing home a maneki-neko is an ideal souvenir or gift.
Cat Cafes in Tokyo
One of the major trends in Tokyo (and starting to catch on elsewhere) is the concept of cat cafes. There are many to choose from in Tokyo, and each offers its own unique vibe although the concept is the same. Cat cafes in Tokyo take a cover charge to enter which allows time to spend amongst the cats inside, and free time to play with them. Drinks are not usually included in the cover charge, and different cafes serve different types of beverages or food. If you are looking for some quality time to pet the cute kitties and take a break from all the busy sightseeing and shopping in Tokyo, a quick stop at a cat cafe may just be what you need.
Cat Island in Japan
While the concept “Cat Island” makes it sound like there is just one large island of cats, there are actually many cat islands in Japan. The most popular cat island, that is filled with cute cats but also some unique architecture showcasing cat-inspired buildings, is Tashirojima which actually almost 4 hours from Tokyo. If you are more interested in accessing some of the closer islands, it is worth taking a look at Ainoshima Island in the Fukuoka Prefecture. On the island, cats roam free and frolic in the streets. While they are street cats, many of them are used to visitors and are playful and affectionate. It is quite a sight to see so many cats densely populating one area, making it one of the best places for cat lovers in Japan. A few other cat islands worth checking out for cat lovers include Okishima in the Shiga Prefecture, Enoshima in the Kanagawa Prefecture and Genkaishima in the Fukuoka Prefecture to name a few. These cat islands exist due to the Edo Period in which silkworms were used for textiles, however, there were tiny mice that used to eat the silkworms. To prevent this issue, the people brought cats to get rid of the mice and protect the silkworms and now there is an overabundance.
Cat Shrines in Japan
While there are many temples and shrines to visit while exploring, for cat lovers in Japan, it is worth paying a visit to both Gotokuji and Imado Shrines. The Gotokuji Shrine is about a 15-minute walk from the Gotokuji station which can be reached via the Odakyu line from Shinjuku station. The temple is quiet and peaceful and a calming break from the busy city. Filled with hundreds of maneki-neko, the temple is certainly a cat lovers dream! Additionally, the Imado Shrine is located closer, and if you are already visiting Asakusa to see the Sensoji temple, it is worth visiting the small Imado Shrine nearby. The shrine is much smaller than the one Gotokuji shrine but is still an essential attraction for cat lovers in Japan.
Throughout Tokyo and Japan, there is also an extensive collection of art that includes cats. From the Edo era to modern street art, cat imagery can be seen all over Japan, make it an ideal destination for cat lovers.