Cafes evolve in Ontario, Japan

“Shareable plates are a constant across the game cafes, but beverages of choice vary. Each serves up its own drink, whether tea, beer, wine or espresso. But walk into any and you’ll hear the same conviviality: fast talk, laughter and rolling dice. And the one thing you’ll rarely see is the glow of a smartphone screen.”

This is how The New York Times international weekly edition (February 21, 2016) described “board-game cafes” that have rapidly increased in number in Toronto especially over the past two years.

The news story headlined “In Toronto, the Hot Spots Put Board Games on the Table” went on to say: “There are so many of these game rooms in Toronto that the popular metro culture site Blog TO named its top 20 local board-game cafes two years ago, and commenters have been noting new ones ever since.”

A quick guide to some of the well-known new type of cafes: Snakes & Lattes Annex sells board games, which include European strategy games like Settlers of Catan and Cards Against Humanity. Snakes & Lattes College with 700-square-meter space in the nearby Little Italy features 16 wines and craft beers on tap. At Bampot Bohemian House of Tea and Board Games, however, no alcohol is available.

However, isn’t all this a fad that is limited to Toronto?

Meanwhile, Japan’s Ministry of the Environment will likely relax its regulations on cat cafes, where customers can play with cats aged at least one year, before the summer. These cafes will be allowed to be open until 10 p.m., instead of 8 p.m. Why the old rule calling for closing at 8 p.m.? It’s simple: Pet shops must close by that time.

The unchanged rule is that the cat cafes must have enough space for the pets in the shop to move around.

The ministry’s approach to the issue was scientific. Tests found that cats in cafes had the same levels of stress whether they played with customers until 8 p.m. or 10 p.m.

There are about 300 cat cafes in Japan, according to the ministry.

There is no evidence that cafes in countries other than Japan not only allow pets into them but also use them to entertain customers.

You may assume cats in Japan are indigenous. Wrong. The domestic cat was introduced to Japan from Korea and China in ancient times, like so many things.

Cats were probably rare and highly prized until the 10th century, according to historians. They explain that it took two centuries for them to become common in Japan.

When it comes to Canadian cafes in Japan, Blenz Coffee based in Vancouver offers its 100% arabica-bean coffee in 60 locations, including in British Columbia, the Philippines and three in Tokyo. Blenz started up in 1992.

Back to Toronto: NYT reports: “Entrepreneurs in Thailand, South Africa, England, India and Mexico have called or visited Toronto to learn how these nondigital, fully analog, pay-to-play cafes operate.”


By Shota Ushio, freelance writer based in Tokyo

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