Japan is known for its quirky, futuristic cafés. Now, East will meet West as Vancouver prepares to open its own anime-inspired café. This summer, the Catoro Café, based on the 1988 Japanese animated fantasy film My Neighbor Totoro, which was written and directed by Hayao Miyazaki, will open in Mount Pleasant.
My Neighbor Totoro, which is frequently mentioned as one of the best animated films of all time, features a forest spirit that resembles a rabbit. The anime classic will serve as the basis for the décor of the Catoro Café, which will house numerous cats for patrons to play and interact with.
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Our goal with Catoro Cafe is to not only help rescue cats to find homes, but to also connect with our guests on an emotional level by making spending time with animals an easy and accessible thing to do within modern urban living. Companion animals play major roles in the lives of many children. In the 2008 book The Powerful Bond Between People and Pets, psychologist Elizabeth Anderson wrote, “Nothing less than alchemy is involved when animals and children get together, and the resulting magic has healing properties that work well.” It has been shown from 22 studies that there are links between pets and the psychological well-being of children. Many of these studies concluded that growing up around pets is linked to having higher self-esteem, cognitive development and social skills. While we hope Catoro will serve as an neighbourhood institution for children who may not be able to own pets for various reasons, we even more so hope to bring in many adults who may have lost the child-like wonder and amazement for being close to animals. Aside from owning a pet yourself, it is rarely an easy and accessible activity to visit a zoo or a petting farm in our day to day lives. We wish to bring this important, stress-relieving activity closer than ever so that people can incorporate visiting us in their everyday lives. The brand we have created with Catoro tells a story of a forest guardian and its companion that are on a mission to rescue the helpless and homeless cats lost within a mysterious forest. We hope that the story we tell will connect with children and put a more welcoming and approachable narrative around the importance of rescuing animals and adoption. We believe that small businesses like Catoro are an integral part of any community. Innovation, integrity and social responsibility should always be at the forefront of any business rather than profits.
The concept was developed in conjunction with the Cat Therapy and Rescue Society, a Canadian charity that specializes in special needs cats, shelter cats, abandoned cats, and owner surrenders that are at risk of euthanasia. The organization strives to rescue and find forever homes for the felines.
Nathan Chan, one of the café’s owners, says that the overpopulation of cats is a national crisis in Canada. In 2012, it was estimated that there was one cat for every three humans. In addition, there are more than 600,000 strays roaming the streets.
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The Catoro Café will feature two separate spaces: one for the café and one for the cats. Patrons can enjoy bubble tea and bubble waffles at the café before heading over to play with the cats. The experience will be highly-Instragramable in true Japanse fashion.
Chan told the Daily Hive that the biggest challenge was finding the right space. The partners originally wanted to open in Burnaby but we were unable to secure the location. The project is being developed by the Imagination Corporation, a company that specializes in designing and building custom signs and environments.
“Their work looks like it’s out of a storybook, like things you’d see in The Hobbit," Chan said. "Think castles and pirate ships."
The café, which is currently being constructed, will be located at 666 East Broadway by Fraser Street in the Mount Pleasant neighborhood in Vancouver. The site is the former location of the Mensch Jewish Delicatessen. The café is expected to open in the early summer, though they will provide updates via their Facebook page. You can also visit their GoFundMe page to get limited freebies and bonuses by offering your support.