Old McDonald had a cat café, E-I-E-I-O. And in this café he had lots of kitties. With a nom nom here and a purr purr there. Here a rub, there a yawn. Everywhere a nyan nyan. Old McDonald had a cat café.

First started in Taipei in 1998, the cat café industry has grown tremendously, especially in Japan’s metropoles* like Tokyo. Here in this vibrant and populous city, people predominantly live in small apartments or condos – most of which have pet restrictions. And, as you may already know, Japan’s dwindling inclination towards the traditional family unit, along with extreme work ethics, leaves many young professionals stressed and no time for relationships. It’s no surprise that after the opening of the first hugely successful cat café in Tokyo in 2005, the proliferation of more neko (Japanese for cat) cafes took off. There are at least 40 cat cafes in Tokyo alone. And cat cafes in Japan could breach the 200 mark soon.

Japan isn’t the only country with a growing cat café industry. Here in the Puget Sound where I hail from, the first cat café (Seattle Meowtropolitan) is set to open at the end of this year! But it’s not the first cat café in America. Cat Town Café, the first cat café in America, opened its doors in 2014. Since then, numerous other cafes have welcomed customers looking for meows. The phenomenon is taking place all over the world.


 

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after searching aimlessly for the cat cafe, there it was!

after searching aimlessly for the cat cafe, there it was!

While in Tokyo, I had the opportunity to visit such a cat café (Cat Café Calico in Shinjuku). It was an interesting experience. The first of which was having to find the place. I learned that in Japan, you have to look up as stores and restaurants are often stacked on top of each other. The entrance to Cat Café Calico is on the 6th floor but the café extends to the 5th floor as well. As you come in, you have to take off your shoes and pay a cover fee of 1,000 yen (about $8) for the first hour. Each subsequent hour was 500 yen. If you want to feed the kitties, come around 5 PM. You can purchase a small container of white chicken for 300 yen each. Trust me, you’ll be a popular target for the throng of kitties that will flock towards you. I suggest coming earlier than 5 PM so you’ll have more space to play with the kitties, then feed them and go. After 5 PM, the café become so crowded you’ll have no place to relax and you’ll be competing against the influx of people on their way home from work. People often stop by cat cafes to de-stress before heading home.

The rules are pretty simple: don’t pick up the cats, don’t play rough, and don’t feed the kitties wearing a red scarf because they have dietary restrictions. Other than that, you are free to pursue the cat of your choice, to pet him, play with him, feed him, and take pictures with him. Toys are bountiful, and there are seating areas for you to relax. A small TV and game console are also available for you to get your game on. You can also read one of the many books they have stockpiled on their shelves.

i'm sorry, can't hear you over my cute

i’m sorry, i can’t hear you over my cute

Being my first time in a cat café, I was more interested in the kitties themselves, but I could tell that the regulars who come to the café are there to relax around cats and not necessarily to play with them. Many were content just reading books and petting kitties as they come by. The majority of the patrons were young women.

So while it was mostly a novelty experience for me, people who regularly come to these cat cafes are finding real comfort and peace. These slow-paced places are a stark contrast to the chaos outside. The first couple days in Japan were dizzying to me. Being packed like sardines in the subway, getting hurried by the herd of people calmly rushing to the next subway train, and breathing down food to allow the long line of hungry businessmen/women waiting to eat were exasperating, to say the least. After 2 exhausting days in Tokyo, the cat café was a haven for me. Now imagine what these cat cafes represent to people who live there.

I found this experience really rewarding and am looking forward to going to the cat café in Seattle once it opens. The future wife and I are on board the cat café express. If you have the opportunity, give these cafes a chance.

sigh... when is next nom?

sigh… when is the next nom?

*It took me 20 minutes to find the plural form of “metropolis.” The best explanation I found was a comment from Ryan Blaine Brown (wherever and whoever you are, thanks): “Most often you see “metropolises” for the plural. More properly the plural is “metropoles,” third declension, as the word comes to English through Latin. Don’t force a second declension masculine (long “i”) or neuter (short “a”) ending here, or everyone will know you are trying too hard and don’t know Latin. And though the word was originally Greek, no one will understand what you mean if you go for the Greek plural “metropoleis,” so avoid it, too. You can either go English plural or Latin (III declension) plural.” I just thought you might appreciate this little nugget of truth. Or not. Meow.

Also… Neko Samurai!!! Look it up. Watch it. Be amused.

Finally, below is a collection of pictures from Cat Café Calico. Enjoy.


 



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UPDATE: Thanks to one of our readers, we now know the original source of this story: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heinrich_Böll.

I was going to unload everything I learned from my recent trip to Taiwan and Japan but my fiancé told me this story on our 3 hrs drive to her parents’ place this afternoon, and I have to share it. I suppose it counts as a travel story as we were traveling. Don’t judge me.

Also, I don’t know the source of the story nor if it were told as a folktale or not. So, if you DO know the source, I would love to find out from where it came and to properly credit such source. The story goes like this:

A businessman on travel to Taiwan was having drinks in a local watering hole. It was a fishing village. As he was bantering about with fellow travelers, a man came in with a string of fishes. They were huge. All the travelers were very impressed. So the businessman approached the fisherman and asked him how he was so good at fishing and if he had any secrets. He guessed that the fisherman had to work very hard from early in morning to reel in such a catch.

The fisherman nonchalantly replied that he didn’t have any secrets. He went on to explain that he’d wake up whenever he wanted, go find a fishing spot, catch a few plump ones, sell them for a good amount that was enough to support his family with a little bit left over to put in his savings, play with his children afterwards, take a nap with this wife in the afternoon, and drink with his friends in the evening before retiring for the night.

The businessman was even more impressed but thought the fisherman was wasting his vast talent.

“You’re doing it wrong,” the businessman said. “I’m a businessman and I can help you get rich.”

“Well, what do I have to do?” the fisherman asked.

“If you turn your knowledge into a business, hire people to fish for you, form partnerships with restaurants and supermarkets, advertise your company’s expertise, and work really in this regard, you’ll make a lot more money,” the businessman replied.

“And how long will this take?” the fisherman asked.

“With my help and your hard work, you’ll be rich in 5-10 years.”

“And then what next?” the fisherman asked.

“Well, you can use that money to invest in the stock market, buy smaller companies to gain a larger market share, go public with an IPO, and be rolling in so much money you won’t know what to do with it,” the businessman excitedly explained.

“Then what will I do then?” the fisherman asked.

“Well, when you’re that rich, you can sleep in as much as you want, maybe go catch a fish or two leisurely, play with your kids, take a nap with your wife, and go drink with your friends,” the businessman replied.

The fisherman handed his catch to the cook and received a wad of money for the sale. “No thanks, I can already do all those things. Why would I spend all that time getting rich when I’m perfectly happy with what I already have? I’d rather be poor and happy.”

The fisherman walked out leaving the businessman perplexed indeed.

Take from this story whatever you want. Maybe the fisherman is a fool for leaving all that money on the table, but I think he made a good choice. It’s good to be ambitious and hungry, but we should also learn to appreciate the good already in our lives. We often work ourselves to death with the belief that we can enjoy life later, but there’s no guarantee we’d even wake up tomorrow. Work hard, but enjoy life as you go along. What I’m trying to say is… go travel, explore the world and enjoy the fruits of your labor as they ripen. Otherwise, the fruits will rot while you try to hoard more fruits.


 


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We spent a weekend in Coronado for Halloween and it was marvelous. The weather couldn’t have been better. The quaint little shops, historic landmarks, incredible beaches, and good eats are calling me to come back. Until then, here are a few things about Coronado that might be useful to you.

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1. James and the Giant Beach

Coronado, the Crown City or Emerald City if you’re an Oz fan, is a skinny stretch of land connected to San Diego by the impressive Coronado Bridge that seems to curve on forever. Coronado can be described as a small beach town, and what a beautiful beach it is! There are several beach entries, but if you head out of downtown Coronado you’ll reach Loews resort hotel, and right across it is the Silver Strand beach.

birds gathering

birds gathering along beach for sunset viewing

The beach goes on forever! At Silver Strand (entrance across from Loews Resort), you can see Hotel Del Coronado on one end and infinity on the other end. Here, the soft sand caresses your feet and the sunset paints the sky in the most vibrant hues. The waves glide along the beach and create a thin layer of water that’s perfect for a skim board. I imagine that on a windy day, this would be the perfect place to fly a kite or wind surf – it would be so epic! People who visit the San Diego area all praise La Jolla for its dramatic cliffs and cute wildlife citizens, but the beach at Coronado has my heart.

2. Warm weather all year round

Is it possible to get sick of sunshine? If you were so inclined to find the answer, this would be a good place to test your hypothesis. While the rest of us in the Pacific Northwest get to rake leaves in the cool and grey sky of autumn and winter, Coronado bathes in sunlight, enjoying sunshine consistently throughout the year. It doesn’t get too flustered with the seasons, staying a steady pocket of joy for those of us seeking refuge from the incessant light rain. Why can’t you just rain all at once and clear up, Puget Sound? WHY?

yearly sunshine data (courtesy of city-data.com)

yearly sunshine data (courtesy of city-data.com)

As the figure above illustrates, Coronado receives sunlight all year round, dipping only during the brief “April shower, May flowers” period. The figure below shows the average temperature for Coronado throughout the year. Temperature doesn’t fluctuate much here – staying at a comfortable average all year long so you can visit anytime and you’ll probably have good weather. So bust out the summer clothes and rage in the sun!

annual temperature average (courtesy of city-data.com)

annual temperature average (courtesy of city-data.com)

3. European outdoor living

Thank to the incredible weather, Coronado residents enjoy outdoor living every day. This is evident in the outdoor furniture lining the streets of Coronado’s downtown area. Deep into the night, people leisurely gather outside in one of the many restaurants in the area to enjoy delicious food, refreshing drinks and good company. We visited in October. The weather was slightly cooler and visitors to Coronado were less numerous, but people still partied late into the night. And when I say “party,” I mean sit around eating, drinking, and enjoying each other’s company. You can’t go wrong with any of the restaurants in the area. Ask for seating outside. I recommend Leroy’s on Orange Avenue – this place makes excellent food and has great outdoor seating. It’s also in the heart of downtown Coronado so you can shop around as well. Right next to Leroy’s is the ever-decadent Moo Creamery, serving ice cream as they’ve done for years. I promise your taste buds will be attacked by deliciousness and will have to work overtime.

4. Laid back

palm trees are so relaxing

palm trees are so relaxing

First time travelers to California always seem to prefer Los Angeles because of its lights and fame, but the hectic lifestyle, incomprehensible traffic, and visible smog cloud lingering above the city make laid-back Coronado a haven from chaos. People aren’t really in a rush. The average commute time for workers in Coronado is 15 minutes – a ridiculously short commute compared to what Los Angeles natives must endure. Even during the peak season, the crowds are far and few in between so you can relax, stroll along the beach, take your time shopping and dining, and really absorb the culture and environment.

5. Full of history

With the Navy base looming in the distance, Coronado houses many distinguished military personnel and their families. And why not? With such an amazing community, fantastic weather, and proximity to large cities and attractions, Coronado is a natural magnet for Special Forces and Pentagon people looking to get away. Though the Naval Base itself wasn’t created until 1997, this strategic location has been a prime defensive position since the World Wars for the nearby San Diego Naval Base.

the 50's called, they want their aprons back

the 50’s called, they want their aprons back

The relics of these times can be seen in the downtown area itself with its numerous flashback diners from the fifties and architecture prevalent of that era. You could be eating in the same seat as the generals of years past.

6. Hotel del Coronado

If we’re talking history, we have to talk about Hotel del Coronado. Built in 1888, this hotel has been visited by 11 presidents and is a favorite location for films such as Some Like it Hot (Marilyn Monroe) and The Stunt Man. Listed as a National Historic Landmark, Hotel del Coronado is an distinguishable fixture for the city, sitting right on the beach and can be seen miles away.

And if you’re into ghost hunting, you’d want to request room 3372, the infamous room frequented by the ghost of Kate Morgan who supposedly committed suicide in 1892 – it remains a mystery to this day as to whether foul play was involved. Maybe you can strike a conversation with her and find out what really happened.
Wedding invitations and stationery from Wedding Paper Divas

7. Oz

Speaking of films, Coronado has long been linked to L. Frank Baum and the Oz series. The renowned author visited Coronado so much that he rented a house (which still stands and can be visited to this day). He wrote 3 Oz books from 1904-1910 while in Coronado. He was greatly entranced and influenced by the city as evident in the books themselves. For example, the Emerald City in Oz is based after Hotel del Coronado.

8. Small community

gelato time

gelato time

Coronado was established mainly as a resort town; thus, tourism is its mainstay, but even so it hasn’t lost that small community feel. We visited this little city during Halloween and were shocked to see the streets teeming with children in costumes going from business to business on Orange Avenue trick or treating. This is definitely a family friendly destination. And as you will notice, there aren’t many high-rises there. The quaint little shops sell mostly locally produced arts and crafts.

9. Highly educated

education data (courtesy of city-data.com)

education data (courtesy of city-data.com)

The residents of Coronado Island are highly educated: 98% with a High School diploma, 55% with a Bachelors degree, and 26% with a graduate degree. These numbers consistently rank higher than the California and national average every year. The data above is additive (adds up to 100% from all the categories).

10. Expensive

Being a resort town isn’t cheap. With about 24,000 inhabitants, median income sits around $90k/year, a $30k/year higher than California’s average. It’s no surprise that the median income is that high since the median house/condo in Coronado is a cool $1 mil. But don’t be afraid, restaurants and shops are reasonably priced. If you plan on staying at Hotel del Coronado or Loews, come during the fall and winter seasons for the best deal.

11. Safe

crime rates (courtesy of city-data.com)

crime rates (courtesy of city-data.com)

Statistically speaking, Coronado is about 3 times safer than the rest of California – with the crime index coming in at 114.5 in 2013 versus California’s 294.7 average (the higher the index the more crime). When we visited, we did not once feel threatened. The graphic above shows Coronado’s crime rates compared to California’s averages. Again, the stats can only do so much. You should take all the necessary precautions when traveling to an unknown location. My own personal experience tells me that Coronado is extremely safe.

12. Retired

Perhaps a factor for the safe city, along with that community feel I talked about earlier, is the average age of Coronado’s citizens (roughly 39.4 years old). There are a lot of retired civilian and military folks here. We saw a show while in Coronado – it was the premier of a modern twist of The Wizard of Oz – at the local theater and in attendance were 80% retirees. For more statistical data of Coronado, visit city-data.com.



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