Sunday, April 27, 2014

Grub Club: Cafe de Amor

If I ever need a drink in my life, it's the week of Junk2Punk, my school's recycled fashion show.  I have many good qualities as an art teacher, but I'm not exactly the most organized, and even when I start WAAAY ahead of time, it doesn't always work out the way I envision, even without a bunch of curveballs getting thrown into the mix.  However, my amazing students make it worth it, especially when it comes to that drink - the little snot-nosed brats bought me a 12 pack of my favorite, cherry coke, as well as a bouquet of flowers.  I couldn't possibly love them more.

Speaking of love, Blondie chose Cafe de Amor for grub club this week, a vegetarian restaura...err, well, let's call a spade a spade.  It was a coffee house.  They didn't have the widest selection of food, but hell, they had coke, and that's saying a lot more than the last vegetarian restaurant we went to.  (If this place hadn't had coke, I might have walked out, friends or no friends!)
Okay, so they didn't have the widest selection of food, but what they did have was tasty.  We were a little sketched out by the burgers at first, as they were sitting in the drink case, and when you bought one, the restaurant staff just popped them out and warmed them up.  Blondie and Engrish both liked theirs, though, and the bite that Champ begged off them convinced her that she needed one, too.
They also had a carrot soup, which didn't appeal to me in the least (thick soups?  Bleh.) but a couple of my grubbies tried it, and liked it.
Champ was a little disappointed in her bean salad.  There were, of course, some beans, but most of it was corn and peas, the latter of which she is definitely not a fan of.
Due to the aforementioned fashion show, I didn't eat all day, and I didn't quite make it to Grub Club.  Blondie and I stopped for drinks at Broadway - because after the puppet show the elementary went to she needed a beer as much as I needed a coke, and that was NOT on the menu at Cafe de Amor.  I also had an order of fries while we were there, which meant that no matter how delicious their spinach pasta was - and it was, in fact, so delicious that Wallflower (who shall hereafter be known as Miss Catwalk due to her mad runway skills) ended up eating this, in spite of the fact that she ordered the mushroom pasta - I couldn't finish it.

After sitting and chatting there for a good, long while - because it was a comfortable place and Blondie got good ratings on atmosphere for that - we decided to move the party elsewhere, because we were all fired up and not ready to go home.  We walked a block away in the blustery April evening, to Le Triskell, where it turned out that although I was too full to finish my pasta, there's always room for crepes.  It was a good choice, because all the Frenchies in the place meant that our loud, obnoxiousness was in good company.  It was really nice to let off some steam - we haven't all been together for a few weeks, and we were having a pretty good time.  Finally we paid up and headed out the door, where I found this little masterpiece - a nice way to end a stressful day.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Spiriting Away

When the Robot show was over, I was pretty much ready to leave Tokyo.  I didn't get to see everything I would have liked, but I came damn close.  The fact is, though, you can't "do" Tokyo in a few days, or really even a month.  I think to really see a city as big and complex as Tokyo you need to live there, get to know it a little at a time...but I guess that's true of anywhere.  That's what drew me into this life and made a hopeless wanderer of me.
Every theme park needs animated characters - these were from a series called Tiger & Bunny
In spite of the fact that I'm a prudish (stop choking on your laughter, Domestic Goddess), most decidedly FAT American, I love public bathing.  I've done it in Korea, Turkey, China (it's not really a Chinese thing, but they like their Korean dramas, so the few Korean saunas in Shanghai did quite well), and even in Kyoto, my first trip in Japan (an electrifying experience - literally!  I visited one of the onsen Lonely Planet recommended, and it had an electric bath, which gave you a shock, sitting in it).

I took a lot of baths during this trip - the B&B Pension, where I stayed in Hakone, gave me a discount pass for the Yunessun onsen, which I made good use of, and my ryokan in Tokyo had their own Japanese style bath.  Under normal circumstances, I probably wouldn't have gone to Oedo Onsen World, but it let me get "close" to the airport, while giving me something to do through the wee small hours before checking in for my flight.  I took one of the newer lines of the Tokyo metro, which went over a bridge to the artificial islands in the bay, and gave me a great view of the city (something which I hadn't seen yet) before letting me off a block from the "bathing theme park."  It was one of the weirdest experiences I've had with public bathing thus far.

In the initial changing area you leave your street clothes and change into a yukata.  I thought this would be a vast improvement over the "uniform" you wear at Korean jjimjjilbangs, whose shorts have lately, inexplicably become too tight on me...  The top part of the women's yukata fit me fine, but my hips are apparently "fuller" than your typical Japanese woman's.  So I took it back and asked if I could try the men's largest size.  When they finally got permission for me to do that - heaven forbid I cross-dress in a piece of clothing that's essentially unisex! - I went back to the changing area to try again.  Not surprisingly, I am also hippier than your typical Japanese man.  >le sigh<  Fortunately I had a pair of leggings, and if I looked a little weird, well, I guess that's truth in advertising.

I thought about trying a couple of new things on the blog during my time in Tokyo.  There are times when a camera can't actually capture what the moment is like, or when you're not allowed to take pictures, and to remedy this, I decided to try writing more lyrically, and to make drawings.  Except I didn't get around to doing the drawings I was going to do of the steam swirling up from the outdoor, rock-lined baths under the moonlight.  Being naked in a huge pool of hot spring water with the night air cooling your skin as you look up at the stars is amazing, but you'll have to imagine it.  Heck, if you get to Oedo Onsen World late enough, you'll have to imagine it, even though you can see it just outside from the indoor baths - they lock up the outside part at midnight.  That was kind of a raw deal - while the actual baths are gender segregated, there is an outdoor area with doctor fish and a walking bath and other cool stuff that I didn't get to try.  The whole point of going there was that they were open through the night, but I wish I could have had a little more time before the closed down those areas.
Instead I had the indoor part to explore, which was decorated to look like an old Japanese town from whatever era.  There are shops and restaurants in this part, and several of them were still open, even after midnight.  It seemed like an awfully long time since my shabu-shabu supper at that point, so I had an order of gyoza and an order of edamame, neither of which I'd had by then.  The gyoza was fine, but I was shocked that the edamame were served cold!  Our sushi place here in UB, Miko, serves them warm, but when I got back and asked Blondie she said that they're prepared differently depending on the season. 

In case you are in Tokyo and thinking this is a good way to kill time before an early flight, you should know that there are shuttles that go from Onsen World to both Haneda and Narita, but apparently you have to make a reservation.  I only found out about them when I was checking in, but the man who told me said that it would be okay, and that the bus is at 3:50.  When I left around then, I asked again, and was told that no, I needed a reservation.  Not only was that disappointing, the extra time at the onsen cost me - 1600 yen, I think? - and I had to pay for a taxi still, too.  I'd planned to take a taxi, anyways - and it cost me 6000 yen! - but I would have left earlier and saved myself a little bit of money if I'd known I couldn't take the bus.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Domo Arigato, Lady Roboto

How do I even begin to talk about the Robot Restaurant?  When I did my very small amount of recon for this trip, it was the number one thing to do in Tokyo, and so I decided I'd go.  It's a kind of misleading name - it's not really a restaurant in the traditional sense of the word, but more of an overwhelming sort of Chuck E. Cheese on crack where the pizza has been replaced with the Japanese equivalent of a sack lunch...a bento box. 
After checking in, putting my bag o' crafty shit from Bingoya in a locker, and being ushered upstairs to a lounge where the sparkly madness continued, I was finally allowed to come down to B2, where the main event happened.  I was in the second row, at the end of a long line of seats with small metal tray tables (where those dumb enough to pay 1000 yen for a bento box disemboweled their snacks...I, on the other hand, had some delicious shabu-shabu for much more than that, and undoubtedly enjoyed it a lot more, as well).  I was afraid being on the end would mean I was away from the action, but it was hard to tell at that point.
When Blondie (who is now a Blondie again - good old American bleach jobs!) and I talked about this place before, mostly all she could do was laugh, although she did mention the old Japanese dudes perving out on the scantily clad girls on the platforms above them.  I got to sit by such a group - it was kind of cute watching them all wave when one of the girls waved at them.  Here they are demonstrating that you must watch carefully and duck your head if the moving platforms swing out over you.  Apparently this show is "dangerous."
Although I spent most of the show wondering where the robots were (hypothetically, I'm guessing that they count the remote-controlled moving platforms as "robots"), I noticed the scantily clad girls pretty quickly.  Daenerys and her six sisters here were the first performance (act?).  I wasn't all that shocked, honestly - Kabuki-cho is apparently kind of a red light district, and although I somehow managed to resist the temptation to see what the Host bars had on offer, I definitely picked up on the fact that the movie shops weren't selling Studio Ghibli's best.
The next act featured pole dancers (who apparently had to clean their own poles before performing)....
...accompanied by the Playboy bunnies on drums (seriously, what is it with all the drums?  I suppose there's a joke in there about getting pounded, but I've already resisted making one inappropriate comment in the last 24 hours - might as well keep it up).
Eventually we did see some "robots."  Some of the acts had a sort of narrative quality to them, and this was one of them.  The peaceful loving denizens of the jungle vs. robots from the future.  Of course, these weren't actual robots, and it seemed awfully unfair to me that the few men in the show were probably in those costumes, which left way too much to the imaginations of the women in the audience...
While the show thus far had been ridiculous as well as entertaining (although perhaps not ridiculously entertaining, it finally worked its way up to a fever pitch.
And delivered on its promise of robots.  Real robots, not dudes in robot costumes.
Who then proceeded to dance "Gangnam Style," with the scantily clad girls.  Madness?  No - THIS. IS.  TOKYO!
It was, truly, insane.  The last act had tank girls and plane girls hovering over the audience.  There were enough flashing lights to give you an epileptic seizure whether you had epilepsy or not.  The whole experience made me think that whoever came up with the movie Suckerpunch must have come here at some point.  It was definitely an interesting way to round out my Japanese cultural experience, although with the 6000 yen price tag I hope they pay those girls well!

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Flowery Speech

It's the most wonderful time of the time, that is.  I've learned that in different countries "the most wonderful time of the year" means a lot of different things, but I have no doubt that in Japan, it's spring.  The weather is warm and the trees are in bloom.  What could possibly be better?

Although it's not a specific "thing," the blooming cherry trees were definitely on my list for this trip to Japan.  You don't have to be that culturally aware to realize that the sakura blooming is a big deal here.  The whole city is cloaked in the most delicate shade of pink because of the cherry trees.  The owner of the ryokan where I stayed made sure to tell me that it was a great time to visit Ueno Park, which was nearby, and I had to agree, since I'd stumbled past as I was trying to get there.  But after my wander through the cemetery studded hills of Taito, I came through the park and got to see the full extent of the blossoming madness.  The sides of the walkways were roped off, and people were enjoying picnics (with an abundance of trash receptacles on hand, organized by content).
It was also interesting to see people taking photos of the moon through the trees.  I managed to catch one, myself, although personally I like the way the lantern lit up the tree.

After breakfast at McDonald's on my last day, I made my way to the National Museum.  I grew up in the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, which has the best collection of Asian art in the Americas, and this had a significant impact on the art teacher I grew up to I was really excited to see the Tokyo National Museum.  Wandering through their halls gave me a sense of déjà vu, not only because of their amazing art, but I found the layout to be very similar to the Nelson's - it's a beautiful, easy to navigate space.  And even here, the blooms were the stars of the show.  As I was taking a look around the entrance hall, I noticed something about the cherry blossoms, and a lady giving out little pink buttons.  I asked her what it was all about, and she explained that it was the "Sakura Rally" - you went through the museum to find the different pieces of art with cherry blossoms in it, and got stamps at each piece.  I thought this was genius, and started thinking about how we might be able to use this for my upcoming student art show.
There were pieces of pottery decorated with sakura, of course.
And those famous printmakers wouldn't have been worth their salt as artists if they hadn't included some cherry blossoms in their pictures.  There was a whole wall taken up with ukiyo-e prints that included cherry blossoms, but I was particularly taken with this one - I love how they showed the rain.

Right now I am up to my neck in the school's recycled fashion show, and two different girls are working on designs centered around the kimono, so of course I took several pictures of blossom-spangled kimono.  This was one of the amazing things about the Tokyo National Museum - they actually let you take pictures of most of the pieces of art.  Maybe this is because the Japanese are such shutterbugs; whatever the case, I appreciated it a LOT.  The labels of the artwork had a struck-through camera symbol on them if you weren't supposed to take photos of it.  Other than that, you could take photos of everything, as long as you kept your flash off, which (of course) a fair number of people didn't, because they're idiots and don't realize what a flash can do to a delicate piece of art 200 years older than themselves.
One of the labels discussing the prints talked about how this art form helped circulate fashion from the city to the towns.  Ukiyo-e are "pictures of the floating world," which includes lovely landscapes, scenes from kabuki, and (predictably) beautiful women.  While photography was still developing (see what I did there?), these prints captured the fashions of their time.
Women's fashions weren't the only thing illustrated in ukiyo-e prints, either.  Men's fashion was also a huge part of it, as you could see if you were actually standing in front of this case of netsuke (the forerunner of cell phone baubles).
It was later that afternoon that I went to the cat cafe.  Just before I left, as I was scratching this sleeping beauty's head, the manager of the cafe came up and told me her name was Sakura.  If there was any doubt left by then at the fervor of the Japanese love for cherry blossoms, this moment cured me of it.


Imma try something different on here just now, and write me some lyrical prose.

It was dusk in Tokyo.  After a couple of hours in my room at the ryokan my feet were rested, and it was too early to call it a night, so I went for a wander.  I didn't know where I was going, only where I'd been, so I headed eastwards.
I found myself on a hilltop, surrounded by walls.  A peek between the gates revealed that graves lay within the walls, though I couldn't go into most of these cemeteries; they were locked up for the night.

A soft wind was blowing, just enough to give a chill to the air.  The sun was just setting, and gave everything a sort of golden quality.  It was so quiet - no cars, very few people, mostly just me and the dead, who weren't saying anything.
I wandered along down these quiet streets, snapping a few photos and enjoying being truly alone rather than the false solitude I'd experienced since leaving my friends to their flight in Seoul.  I was just about to turn my tracks toward Ueno Park, where I'd sit down at my sushi restaurant, when I heard chanting floating down a new street.

It hung in the air, and I followed its trail to its source, which looked nothing like a temple but I supposed it was.  The electric lights from inside augmented the last fading light of day, seeming to pick up right where it left off.  They chased the chill out of the air, and feeling warmer, I wandered off in a new direction.
Where I found a Denny's.  Seriously, people - a Denny's???  Of all the restaurants to import from the States...  I did walk up and check out the menu, which had very little in common with a Denny's back home, although it smelled almost the same.  There was no sampler platter on the menu, so I wasn't tempted to abandon my sushi restaurant for it.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Harajuku Girl

As I've mentioned time and time again, I am NOT a fashionista.  I just want to put that out there so you don't get the wrong idea about me being in Harajuku.  I love the song by Gwen Stefani, and I might even have had it stuck in my head most of the day, but the actual reason I was in Harajuku was the fact that it's where the Ota Museum is, and they have one of the best collections of ukiyo-e prints in the world.  It's a small collection which constantly rotates to protect the prints, and photos aren't allowed because most people are idiots and don't realize you shouldn't use your flash in an art museum.  And it was one of my must-sees for Tokyo.
It just happened to be nestled between Omote-Sando and Harajuku, so I decided to make a day of it.  Omote-Sando is a neighborhood with a lot of cool architecture, so I decided to get off the subway one stop early and check out some of the buildings.  I don't talk about my feet a lot, but they've been in rough shape for - eesh - four years now, and pretty much every day I was in Tokyo I abused them, but what are you going to do?  At any rate, the buildings were cool, and it was a nice spring morning.
After the Ota Museum I decided to go ahead and prowl the streets of Harajuku - when in Rome, you know?  I pretty much saw exactly what I was expecting to see...
Although this little bit of sticker art caught me by surprise.  I didn't see a lot of street art in Tokyo, but finding stickered poles like this was fairly common.  It's probably easier to put a sticker on something without getting caught than it is to spray paint it.

A few years back, my friends Meen and Kate went to Tokyo from Shanghai.  They talked about how polite the Japanese were (for example, how they would wait for people to get OFF the train before getting on), and during my time there I noticed this as well (I don't think I even heard one person hawk a loogie!)  They also talked about how good looking the men were, and I can't argue with that one, either.  I am not the kind of person who notices men on the street, but hoo boy I did in Tokyo!  I've been in Asia a long time, and I've nursed a crush or two on Korean men, in spite of the fact that they're a little on the effeminate side.  I can appreciate Mongolian men, because they're tall and typically pretty well built, although they tend to be a little burly for my tastes.  I think Japanese men fit pretty well between these two categories - they're definitely pretty, but leave no doubting the fact that they are men.  I could get used to that kind of eye candy.  And just so you know, I did use this picture because it had a guy in it, but I took the picture because it had the subway sign in the background.  He isn't really typical of the kind of masculine beauty to which I am referring here, but I didn't go around taking photos of hot Japanese men because it makes me feel like a weirdo stalker.
Before leaving the area and giving my poor feet a break, I had one last place to hit - the Meiji Shrine.  This shrine is dedicated to Emperor Meiji and his wife, Empress Shoken.  Apparently this year is the 100th year of her "demise," and so there were lots of signs up telling about how wonderful she was, and how much she did for the Japanese people.  It was interesting to read about how they helped guide Japan into a more modernized mindset, and the shrine is in a beautiful park.
But the shrine itself didn't really leave much of an impression on me.  Maybe I wasn't looking at it the right way, but I just didn't think there was a lot to it.  I've been to some magical places - Fushimi-Inari-Taisha, in Kyoto, is my all-time favorite - and this just didn't hit that note with me.  Maybe it was the light, or the weather.  Or maybe it was the fact that I got told off for sitting on the ground, because the bench I was sitting on was so low that it really didn't rest my feet much, and they felt better stretched out in front of me.  Whatever the case, Meiji Jingu really didn't do it for me - I can take a walk in the woods any day I like.

Friday, April 11, 2014

A (First Class) Pirate's Life For Me!

This trip is the least prepared I have ever been for travel.  I blame this on my students - if I hadn't spent the last several months immersed in work, I might have been ready for it.  The notes in my travel journal leading up to last week are two pages in all.  I had more than that for last year's spring break in Shanghai, and I freaking lived there!  However, I did have a few things on the list, and the second one was to see Fuji-yama.  In our discussions about Tokyo, Blondie suggested that Hakone made a good day trip to do exactly that, so I went for it.

This was a little daunting, because I didn't have much to go on.  I was leaving from Kawasaki, and I couldn't find any definite information, so in the end, I just went to the station, and when I found a sign that said, "Odawara" (the switching point between the train from Tokyo and the one to Hakone) I crossed my fingers and bought a ticket.  I couldn't figure out how much it would cost, so I bought a platform ticket, figuring I would pay the difference at the machine in Odawara (that didn't quite turn out the way I'd planned, since it was actually a ticket that only lets you on the platform, but I got there in the end).

I have to say that nobody treats tourists like the Japanese do.  When I got to Hakone, I had no idea where my hotel was or how to get there, so I went to the counter for Hotel Reservations, and she was able to tell me three different ways to get there.  Again and again I was able to find help when I needed it, and the fact that I wasn't as prepared for this trip as I normally am didn't turn out in catastrophe the way I thought it would.  Getting to the lake was another way that I benefited from this.  The driver let me off right outside the boat office, and I was so excited that my cruise was coming in less than five minutes that I actually splashed out and paid an extra 500 yen for a first class ticket.
Ooh - luxury!
I was grinning like a huge idiot when I presented my ticket for admission into the first class cabin, and there's a possibility that I might walked around singing, "Royals," because I was the only one in the whole damn suite (okay, almost the only one - the other two first class passengers were up deck and getting snacks).

I found my way upstairs, where I particularly enjoyed the view of the people in steerage, huddled together at the other end of the boat and looking miserable.  I had a great view and all that space to myself, and yes, I might have laughed out loud because I felt privileged, all for the low, low price of about $5.  Who the hell says I'll never be royal?!

Of course, the boat was just about as cheesy as it could get.  The pirates on deck were a nice touch, as was the Roman masthead.  The sails and rigging looked great, but were completely non-functional, since the boat was motor-powered, although I really didn't care.  The fact that it was so ridiculously corny actually added to it, if you ask me.  When I got tired of it (and the wind and the chilly air), I went back to my opulent seat belowdecks, and basked in the sunshine and the view.
Peppermint enjoyed climbing the rigging.  She was also excited to have her picture taken with Fuji in the she was in a Hokusai print!  I love Japanese printmaking, and have taught about it a few times now, and this was one of the reasons why seeing the mountain was one of the top things on my list this trip.

Avast me hearties!  I be a brave wench and was not afeared in the least to have me picture taken with yon scallywag!  After all, my own nephew the Dirt Devil is an aspiring sea dog (okay, okay, so he just likes watching Jake and the Neverland Pirates, but I can hope I'm not the only wanderer in the family).  If I'd had anyone but Peppermint to talk to I probably would have spent the whole time speaking in blaggard; since you get enough weird looks traveling with an old, worn stuffed animal without talking to it, I stuck to humming "Royals," and giggling under my breath.

I have to admit, though - the solo flying is getting a little old.  I'm questioning now whether or not I should actually go to Tsagaan Nuur this summer after all.  I found myself almost as worn as Peppermint by the time I got back to UB.  Anywho...
As fun as it was to cruise around the lake (and it was), I came to see Fuji.  My mountain-spotting record has not been perfect this last year.  We did get a break in the clouds when I went to Everest base camp last summer, but it snowed the morning we hoped to see Tavan Bogd.  Sunday it was raining so hard that I had to buy an umbrella (which I then managed to leave on the bus that took me to my hotel), so I was worried that I was going to get skunked.  I guess I'm glad that it ended up being the Ghibli Museum that I missed, not Fuji.  Instead I got to see Fuji three times - on the lake, on the train back from Odawara to Tokyo, and on the plane flying back to Seoul, which was spectacular but I didn't get a shot of it.  I really would have cried if I hadn't seen this amazing scene.  The floating torii makes it perfect.
This is not the Floating Torii - the one you've seen pictures of is in Hiroshima, and I was NOT going there.  I can't imagine it being better than this one, anyways.  After getting off my cruise I took a stroll along the side of the lake (with my noisy little wheelie carry-on - it took me a little while longer to figure out that I should USE the damn luggage lockers) and enjoyed a little rest next to the lake, before making my way back to the docks, slurping up some ramen for lunch, and catching a bus to Odawara for the second highlight of the day.

Spoiled Brat Cats

So yesterday I decided on an alternate career path, should too many years on the shelf past my expiration date finally drive me bat-shit crazy and make me no longer fit to teach because I'm too broke from buying cat food (instead of supplemental art supplies) and too busy taking care of kittes (instead of worrying over planning and whatnot):  I will move to Japan and open a cat cafe.

I told Blondie that I would like to go to one of the Japanese islands totally inhabited by feral cats, if I only had more time, and she told me I should go to a cat cafe instead.  I'd heard of them before - apparently because a lot of apartments don't allow pets, entrepreneurs have seen a way to fill this gap in people's lives - but I had no idea where I would find one.  Well, it just so happened that I was killing time waiting for the Robot Restaurant to open (OH JUST YOU WAIT FOR THAT ONE!) and lo and behold, I stumbled across one.  So I shrugged my shoulders, went, "What the hell?!?" and made my way up to the 6th floor of a building in Shinjuku, where Calico Cat Cafe was located.
Just in case you don't know, I love cats.  I routinely wind my ninth graders up with arguments about why cats are better than dogs.  I like the personality of cats, how they really seem not to give a fuck, and their attitude that of COURSE you are going to take care of them, and they might even let you pet them for it.  Well, this sort of attitude makes the idea of having a business where people come to play with your cats completely ridiculous.
Also - in case you annoy the Deity - look for
one smaller than you are.

I enjoy telling people the difference between a dog and a cat.  A dog thinks, "OH BOY THESE PEOPLE THEY TAKE CARE OF ME THEY LOVE ME AND FEED ME THEY MUST BE GODS!"

A cat thinks, "Hmm.  I have these people.  They love me.  They feed me.  They take care of me...  I must be a god."

These cafe cats have definitely been spoiled.  Normal cats are temperamental - these cats completely ignore you unless you have the chicken the cafe sells to feed them with.  If they're sleeping, they will let you pet them because they can't be bothered doing anything about it, but your main attraction to them is the chicken in your hand, and if you hold out your hand to let them inspect you before you try to pet them (as is polite with most animals, except dogs, who would rather sniff your butt or your crotch), and they find you've got no chicken for them, you are dead to them, Mortal.  DEAD.
Besides that, cats all have such varied purrsonalities (see what I did there?)  I found myself wondering if they'd had to find new homes for any cats because they couldn't get along.  I saw a little chasing, but other than this cat on this poster most of the cats seemed to live and let live.  This girl, on the other hand, I tried to pet when I first got to the cafe, and only narrowly avoided a bite for my troubles.  Later I saw the sign.  And it opened up my eyes...
In fact there was a whole book of cat profiles to let you know their names, breeds, and birthdays.  It was kind of fun flipping through and seeing how many breeds of cats I knew (that crazy cat lady career?  It's not totally out of the realm of possibility for me.  I really loved cats as a girl.  Possibly I thought it was my purpose in life to take care of them.  In fact, I may have once told my family I wanted to have a hundred cats when I grew up).
The cat cafe has rules.  Don't wake the cats up, but you can pet them while they sleep (which is good, considering how much of a day cats spend asleep).  Don't chase the cats.  In fact, their suggestion is to sit down, relax, and read a book, which is honestly a pretty good strategy, but ain't nobody got time for that.  It cost me about $10 for an hour at the Calico, and considering how many people bought food for the cats, I have a feeling that's pure profit for them.  Anyways, it was an interesting peek into a different angle of modern Japanese culture, as opposed to the more traditional parts of their culture I'd been experiencing.