Go to petting: Nekotama

Tokyo often seems no place for humans to live, let alone pets, especially in those 1 room apartments where there is little enough breathing space for a man without having to worry about his best friend too. For this reason “air dogs”, those yappy small dogs with faces like constipated rats that get carried everywhere are quite popular. Big dogs, though you do see them around, are a lot rarer and cats seem to get the sharp end of the stick in mythology and folklore being harbingers of doom and death. Those cats you see with stubby tails haven’t been cruelly treated、by the way, they are born and bred that way,, but even still, cats don’t get the love and affection dogs do.

The foreigner in Japan may rightly feel uneasy about getting a pet. You won’t have to social networks here that allow you to travel while a neighbour looks after the animal, and trips to the GP are scary enough, I can’t imagine the vet won’t suffer from the same communication barriers too. And without a cuddly fur ball to keep you company what is a man to do?

Luckily some entrepreneur in Japan has realized the potential of fuzzy therapy and has opened a petting zoo. Neko-Tama, in Futagotamagawa, on the south border of Tokyo, is one of these and offers not only the opportunity to cuddle a cat but also for cat lovers to rage at the treatment of the poor things. A small cat-themed village street has cats of various breeds in little rooms with large glass windows and little plaques with their photo, name and details on. “This is Tama-chan, 3 years old, our star attraction. She loves salmon and playing with children” next to which a photo of a cat with a look so miserably inconvenienced as only a photographed cat can manage.

A few of the meeker ones are let loose and hide under the cat-shaped benches. At the end of the street is a play room where up to 10 cats are let loose to mingle with the visitors. Or rather, that is the idea. In reality it is a battlefield of badly behaved children running after a few stressed-out cats that climb up to the highest possible areas where they hide, shaking and nervous. Though the proprietors like to portray the cats as if they were idols the kids and their parents simply have no clue how to treat them. The only cat that was safe from the onslaught was a massively fat bundle of fur, an ancient feline who just didn’t have the energy to be scared anymore. I guess the kids left him alone because he didn’t squeal so amusingly when his fur was rubbed the wrong way, or jump up when you clapped your hands right behind his ears. The very unlucky ones may even be dressed up in “cute outfits”, a horrendous fad that most pets in Japan sooner or later have to deal with, with pet clothes stores littered around Tokyo.

Visiting Neko-tama is a double-edged sword for the foreign cat lover. On the one hand it is nice to interact with cats occasionally; on the other it will just upset you to see how the poor things are treated. There are dog versions of this too but I have never visited those. I presume they fare a little better as dogs are more respected pets in Japan, and besides, they are dumb enough creatures to not get stressed out by maltreatment.

Location: Futagotamagawa is on the Hanzomon/De-emtoshi line towards Chuorinkan.
Website: Neko-Tama (the website contains printable coupons that offer half-price entry)
Map: here, though the website has maps to any of its many petting zoos.


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4 comments:

  1. hahaha poor kitties... do they have these petting places for smaller animals like hamsters, ferrets, etc? lol I don't think smaller pets would fair as well as cats.

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  2. I was browsing through a mail order catalogue recently (for furniture - I don't STILL get them to look at the women's underwear and swimsuit sections) and happened across some pictures of human style clothes for dogs being modelled by some probably fairly unhappy dogs. Also in the same catalogue were animal style pyjamas for children...

    Why not go the whole hog and have the kids sleep out in the yard (sorry, what yard?) and the dogs in the kids room? Wouldn't the dog look cute with a little backpack strapped on walking to school?

    Why is there a market for this sort of stuff? Are people really that fucking retarded?

    Every time I see a proper dog (one that can't be fit into a handbag for show) I always want to complement the owner on having such a nice dog and have a moan about how much the little shitty ones piss me off. I never do, of course :)

    By the way, have you ever seen the areas in department stores where you go to buy a dog? You can pretty much only buy the tiny shitty dogs, and they usually cost 10 man+ All are kept in little glass boxes and the area usually stinks like hell (though this depends on how posh the store is).

    Why are people so fucking stupid? Maybe there are no dog breeders in Japan. I know for sure that in the UK you can get a dog pretty cheaply from a breeder or someone who has a dog that has had puppies, so why pay huge amounts of money for a rat shaped like a dog?

    Grr.

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  3. ...How are they maltreated? The location has space, they are not overly bothered and many animal shelters I've been too are a lot smaller with a lot poorer conditions. They are unrestricted int heir movement, taken care of, fed well and all of the cats there are also up for adoption to a good home if visitors offer so... How the hell is that maltreatment?

    I suppose you'd rather them wander the streets of Tokyo...?

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  4. Those are some ugly pets, I understand the use of space, but I think that japan take it too serious.

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