I have a not so secret obsession with Japan and (almost) anything Japanese that comes from watching anime (Japanese animations) and reading manga (Japanese comics). So last Sunday (28th of Feb) turned into a Japanese day for my friend (who has a similar obsession with Japan) and I.
We started the day by visiting what is possibly Australia’s only Cat Café, located near Melbourne’s Victoria Markets. Cat cafes started in Japan as a way for city folk who aren’t allowed pets because they live in apartments to spend time with cats. It sounds simple, however it’s the ‘café’ part that gets people confused. Although it’s called a Cat Café the real attraction is the cats, the food/drink is really a side thing.
Cat Café Melbourne has its whole upper floor (and the staircase) dedicated to the rescue cats that call it home. The cats have a whole five rooms for them to wander through. All rooms, except for the fifth one, are open for guests to come in to pat or play with the cats. I enjoyed playing fetch with a cat named Chirp. I would wave his favourite toy somewhere on one of the many climbing frames and once he caught it he would carefully climb down, drop it and wait for the game to begin again.
I soon discovered that despite the cats being rescue cats they were extremely well looked after (which is what the $10 entrance fee goes towards), with soft fluffy coats. It’s wonderful to think that these cats get a second chance at life. You can learn more about the Cat Café on their website: https://catcafemelbourne.com/
Next was the main event of the day the Japanese Summer Festival! I was so excited to see what kind of cool things the stalls would be selling…and so was everyone else. There was so many people that you had to wait in either squished clumps of people or lines to get into everything. Mind you, I often think that whenever there is a large crowd it’s because there’s something worthwhile looking at. This was certainly true since the stalls that were jam packed with the most people were any stall selling beautiful kimonos. Just looking at the various flowery designs on the women’s kimono’s was worth all the pushing and shoving. These stalls also sold obi (the belt that ties the kimono together) and geta (traditional Japanese footwear) so that you could buy a complete traditional Japanese outfit. The stall holders even helped people dress in their new kimono, which allowed people to become even more immersed in the festival atmosphere.
It was not unusual or unexpected to see many of the people at the festival dressed in either kimonos or cosplay (dress up) costumes based on anime/manga characters. I read on the website (http://jcci-jsm.org.au/fest/) that there would be a kimono and cosplay best dressed competition, so I kind of knew what to expect.
Before the best dressed competition there were a number of performances involving dancing to both to traditional and modern Japanese music. I had fun trying to dance along with the performance of Kyary Pamyu Pamyu’s “Ninja Re Bang Bang”, especially since Kyary is my favourite singer. My friend and I also were able to get involved in the Bon Odori (or Bon dance) which is a kind of traditional Japanese dance done in a big circle at festivals. It was rather like going to a bush dance, in the same way that you are taught seemingly simple dance moves in a big group of people that you don’t know. I kind of felt a community spirit of togetherness with everyone there as none of us really knew what we were doing, but we were all having fun. I guess this is why we need these kinds of festivals: to bring people together and encourage people to learn about other cultures. Learning about other cultures is especially important in Australia since we are such a multicultural society.
Anyway the day was a blast and I am keen to go back to the Cat Café and to attend the Japanese Summer festival next year.