By CARL STONE
Special to Squid Ink
It sometimes seems that in Japan the most common solution to something lacking in life is to visit a specialized cafe or pub. Wife not paying enough attention to you at home? Try a "cabaret club," where fetching ladies in evening gowns will flatter you shamelessly, pop candies in your mouth and light your cigarette for $100 an hour and up.
Husband always complaining and demanding? Try a "host club," where you'll get al the pampering and attention you richly deserve. And say you're a computer nerd who can't manage to get a girl to even look at you? Try one of the "maid cafes" in geek central Akihabara where the staff dresses up like french domestiques, engage you with cute games and massages, and will paint a valentine heart on your omelet in ketchup if you ask.
The Japanese have loved cats since the time of Tales of Genji and even before. For the typical worker putting in long work hours, living in a no-pet apartment and traveling all over the country on business, the solution is the cat cafe. Like many trends in Japan, its
origins are in Osaka but it is currently spreading fast all over Tokyo.
VIDEO: Tokyo's Calico Cat Cafe
Simply, you pay to spend time in a room with a few other people -- attendence is strictly controlled with a reservation system -- and eight to ten cats of all breeds and varieties. A magazine on the table introduces each "member" by name, breed, date of birth and personality quirks. Here the cats, not the customers, are king -- please don't pick them up or wake them if they're sleeping, and of course tail pulling is completely forbidden.
Drinks and snacks are available for you to consume and, just like in a cabaret club, if you and that sweet young thing next to you seem to be hitting it off, you can buy her a drink
and some kibble.
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Composer Carl Stone splits his time between Los Angeles and Japan. Keep up with his performances through his website, www.sukothai.com.