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Cat Cafes: Finding a furry friend

Cat cafes, also known as Neko Cafes, are a type of Japanese coffee shop where people can play with cats that roam freely around the venue. These cafes can be found in most major cities in Japan; they are often not located at street level but on higher floors in multi-story buildings and not always easily found. Cat cafes have really taken off in Japan in the past few years, spreading to countries all across the world including England, Austria and America. Let’s take a look at what makes cat cafes so popular in Japan and how you can enjoy them.

Where it started

In Japan, pet ownership is difficult due to their small living quarters, strict rental agreements and busy lifestyles, which is why cat cafes have become so popular with locals in Japan as well as overseas visitors and tourists who enjoy the company of felines. These cafes are incredibly popular, you may not need to book when visiting but it may be worthwhile calling ahead when visiting the cafes that are more popular than most. 
As of 2015, Tokyo was home to 58 cat cafes, the first of which opened back in 2005. There are varying types of cat cafes across Japan with some featuring specific categories such as black cats, fat cats and rare-breeds – there is even a cafe in Tokyo that added goats as a unique way of bringing in customers. These cafes operate under strict rules to ensure cleanliness and animal welfare, and that the cats are not disturbed by excessive and unwanted attention, such as by young children or when sleeping. Most cat cafes seek to raise awareness of cat welfare issues such as those that are abandoned and stray.

Enjoying cat cafes

Cat cafes charge customers based on their time spent in the cafe at around 200 yen per ten minutes. Most cafes allow you to purchase cat treats and at some places, additional charges apply to food and drinks for humans. Power outlets are also available at many of the cafes for patrons to charge their electronic devices, while others provide complimentary magazines and comic books as well as massage chairs for their customers to use during their visit, it depends on which cat cafe you choose to visit. Simple English explanations and instructions are available at many cat cafes in Japan, either in written form or conducted by the staff making it an experience that can be enjoyed by all. 

Rules for cat cafes

When enjoying a cat cafe, it’s important to remember that there are still rules to stick to. As you enter cat cafes there is a typical procedure that you should follow:

  • You can register at the entrance, where your starting time will be recorded.
  • You will be asked to remove your footwear and change into the provided indoor slippers.
  • You will then need to sanitize hands with alcohol spray before moving to where the cats are. Customers are free to pick any vacant spot and move around the cat cafe to play with the animals. Food and drinks can also be ordered once you decide on a seat. Cat toys are also provided at the cafe and free to use.
  • After having your fill of playing with the cats, you can return to the entrance where you will pay for the time spent there and anything else you may have ordered, such as food and drink.

Each cat cafe will have its own rules that need to be followed, but more often than not they are similar. Most places will allow you to pet the cats but you aren’t allowed to pick them up unless a cat comes on its own accord. Cat cafes often offer treats to give to cats as they must not be fed with outside food. When in the cafe, you will be more than welcome to take pictures of the cafe and the cats as long as you don’t use your flash.
At Atelier Japan, we want everyone to explore the intricate nature of Japanese culture. From our handcrafted inlay jewellery to our fans that have been produced using ancient techniques, there is a piece of Japanese culture in each and every product in our collection. Visit the Atelier Japan collections to browse our auspicious products and purchase your own piece of Japanese craft.
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Japanese Flowers: A bespoke identity

Throughout history, Japanese flowers have been used as a form of unspoken communication. This art of using Japanese flowers to communicate is known as hanakotoba, where Japanese flowers and plants are given codes and passwords that are meant to convey emotion and communicate directly to the recipient or viewer without the use of words. Let’s take a look at some unique Japanese flowers and their identities.

Camellia / Tsubaki

Camellias are early spring flowers that are native to Asia. These Japanese flowers were incredibly popular with nobles during the Edo Period, as amongst warriors and samurai, the red camellia symbolised a noble death. The camellia does have other meanings, too. These Japanese flowers also symbolise love, however, it is custom not to give these Japanese flowers to someone who is sick or injured due to the nature of these flowers ‘beheading’ themselves when they die.

Chrysanthemum / Kiku

Chrysanthemums are Japanese flowers native to both Asia and Europe and are known as kiku in Japanese. As a motif, chrysanthemums are perfectly round and are one of the most recognisable Japanese flowers. Chrysanthemums have incredibly noble connotations and are often found on the Japanese Imperial Family’s crest. In society, chrysanthemums indicate purity, grief, and truth, and are often used for funerals.

Wisteria / Fuji

Wisteria or fuji, are auspicious purple flowers that grow on woody trailing vines. These Japanese flowers are a popular spring motif, especially for traditional fashions such as the kimono. Throughout history, wisteria has been associated with nobility as commoners were forbidden from wearing the colour purple.

Red spider lily / Higanbana

Red spider lilies are bright Japanese flowers found in the summer throughout Asia. They are associated with final goodbyes as Japanese legends suggest that these flowers grow wherever people part ways. In ancient Buddhist writings, it is claimed that the red spider lily guides the death through samsara, known as the cycle of rebirth and because of this, these flowers are often used for funerals, but they can also be used for decoration without connotations.

Cherry Blossom / Sakura

Cherry blossom is of Japan’s most renown and popular flowers. Cherry blossom, also known as sakura is a Japanese flower that represents springtime. In the literary sense, cherry blossom is meant to symbolise fleeting beauty and the brevity of life. In the secret method of communication, hanakotoba, these Japanese flowers indicate a pure and gentle heart. Cherry blossom can be found in a variety of things from food to cosmetics due to its popular and beloved nature.

Sunflower / Himawari

Sunflowers used to be native to North America, but can now be found around the world, including Japan. These bright and cheery flowers were brought to Japan hundreds of years ago. As you may have guessed, these flowers symbolise radiance in the language of hanakotoba as well as respect.

Sweet pea / Suitopi

Sweet pea flowers are native to Italy and only arrived in Japan at the turn of the 20th century. Until recently, in hanakotoba, the sweet pea was known to mean goodbye. Today, these flowers have mostly lost their symbolism and are now a popular bouquet flower that is sold from winter to spring.

Plum blossom / Ume

The ume or Chinese plum tree is native to China. The plum tree is more closely related to that of the apricot tree, where the fruit of these trees is sometimes referred to as Japanese apricots. In the old communication of hanakotoba, these Japanese flowers indicated elegance and loyalty. Partnered with the popular cherry blossom, these Japanese flowers bloom in spring just before the appearance of sakura.

Daffodil / Suisen

Daffodils, also known as suisen are native to Europe and Northern Africa. These flowers arrived in Japan almost 700 years ago and now grow wild in certain areas. These flowers are incredibly unusual, blooming from late December through to February. In hanakotoba, daffodils represent respect. 
At Atelier Japan, our skilled craftsmen and makers carefully create each piece of our auspicious collection to bring you authentic Japanese craft and immersive designs. Visit the Atelier Japan collections to discover our unique Japanese teas, silverware, fans, jewellery and pottery for you to enjoy.
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Japanese Masks: A unique identity

Japan is famous for its impressive theatre and performance, both of which often incorporate the use of unique Japanese masks. Along with often being used in theatre, traditional Japanese masks are mainly decorative and are usually available to purchase at shrine festivals and events. Japanese masks have long been connected to folk myths and tails with many of them representing people, creatures, devils, ghosts, and animals. Some traditional masks include; Gigaku, Bugaku, Gyodo, Tengu, Kappa, Noh, Kyōgen, Shinto, Kagura, Kitsune, Hyottoko, Oni, Kabuki, Samurai, Kendo and Animegao. Let’s take a look at some of these unique masks, their meaning and why they are so widely used across Japan.

Gigaku masks

Gigaku Japanese masks are some of the most traditional of Japanese masks. These masks were often used in dance-drama as an art form which longer exists today. These unique masks were designed to represent the face of superhuman, demon, lion or bird and were handcrafted from wood. Alongside Gigaku, there were also Bugaku masks; another traditional Japanese mask also used in dance-drama which featured moveable jaws.

Gyodo masks

Japanese masks such as the Gyodo are used to represent traditional Buddhist figures and are often used for outdoor Buddhist processions. The name of these masks represents three distinct ceremonies: ritual of temple buildings or images while chanting sutras, masked processions during memorial services, and, in Pure Land Buddhism, reenactments of the descent of Amida.

Oni masks

Oni are demons and can be found on many Japanese masks, they are usually depicted as red-faced and angry with long sharp teeth. Oni masks are most common during the Bean-Throwing Festival, also known as Setsubun, when people wear them for festival performances at shrines.

Tengu masks

Tengu are the fearsome demi-gods who protect the mountains. These Japanese masks depict red faces and angry expressions, but their most obvious feature is a long, red nose. In the past, Tengu were more birdlike, as they became human, the beak turned into a nose but kept its long shape. These Japanese masks are used for Noh stage plays and at certain Shinto festivals. They’re also often used as a decoration since the Tengu are thought to frighten bad spirits and bring good luck.

Kitsune masks 

Japanese masks often represent animals, and the Kitsune mask is a popular Japanese mask that takes on the form of a fox. This type of mask has strong links to Japanese culture,  where the fox is known to possess different personalities; it can be good or evil depending on the situation and in Shinto religion, the Fox is a messenger of the god Inari, the protector of rice, agriculture, and fertility. These Japanese masks are worn by participants in certain Shinto festivals or by attendees to join in.

Kabuki masks

Kabuki is a modern Japanese theatre art form which uses a whole host of Japanese masks in its performances. Kabuki masks have replaced more classical ones with painted faces and make-up using ingredients such as rice powder to create a white base for mask-like make-up. Make-up is used to exaggerate and enhance facial lines with the designs incorporating different colours, each with their own representations much like other Japanese masks. Purple lines represent nobility while green lines represent the supernatural, and red lines represent passion, hedonism, and other positive things. Blue or black lines represent jealousy, villainy, and other negative sentiments.

Noh & Kyogen masks

As part of Kabuki theatre, there is also a range of Japanese masks that are used amongst Noh and Kyogen performances. Kyogen is often performed as comic relief during the intermissions of Noh theatre, a typically more serious and solemn performance, where a range of masks are used. In Kyogen, actors performing non-human roles wear masks, and in Noh, masks are even more common, with hundreds of different styles and designs available for actors to use.
At Atelier Japan, we showcase Japanese culture and traditions through our beautiful collection of Japanese fans, tea, pottery and jewellery, all of which make the perfect addition to any celebration or your interior design. Browse our collection to find something just as unique and expertly crafted as traditional Japanese masks.
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Japanese Instruments: The sound of Japan's history

There are a whole host of traditional Japanese instruments used to play Japan’s traditional selections of music. Traditional Japanese instruments are musical instruments often used in the traditional and folk music of Japan. They comprise a range of string, wind, and percussion instruments, from those that were invented in Japan to others that have evolved and developed into Japanese instruments and varieties over time after arriving from other countries such as China. Let’s take a look at some of the most popular Japanese instruments and why people enjoy their sound and feel so much.


When it comes to Japanese instruments made from string, the koto is the most popular choice. These Japanese instruments come in a variety of shapes and structures. Most types of kotos consist of a body made from wood accentuated by strings which are stretched across the middle that are plucked with a pick or with fingers and nails to play the music. The koto was an instrument that was favoured by Japanese aristocrats and was often used for entertainment, however, since the arrival of the Heian era, it has become an instrument used mostly for religious ceremonies and festivals.


Japanese instruments can take on many different forms. The taisho-goto is an instrument that comprises of strings, similar to a guitar and buttons that are used to change key. While  Japanese instruments generally use silk strings, the Taisho-goto uses metal strings and is constructed to produce notes of the Western 12-note scale on its keyboard.


The percussion famiy is home to a whole host of popular Japanese instruments. Wadaiko is a popular type of Japanese drum that is crafted by stretching leather skin over a wooden body, and releases sound when the skin is struck with varying levels of force. In Japan today, wadaiko are used mostly for religious festivals, kabuki and noh performances, ceremonies at shrines and temples, and during summer festivals.


Alongside string and percussion instruments, Japan is also known for popular Japanese instruments that belong to the wind family. The nohkan is a type of flute that is used during noh performances, along with the kotsuzumi, otsuzumi, and taiko. The nohkan, is the only melodic instrument used on stage during noh performances and creates a unique sound that produces a feeling of tension. 


The biwa is a plucked string instrument that was first popular in China and then spread throughout East Asia. These unique Japanese instruments are said to have arrived in Japan from China during the Nara period. The instrument is comprised of a water-drop shaped body with a handle, and while there are generally 4 strings, 5-stringed varieties also exist.


Many Japanese instruments come from ancient tribes and cultures from all over the country. The Ainu are an indigenous people that live in Hokkaido, the northernmost region of Japan. The mukkuri is a simple instrument used by the Ainu that consists only of a piece of bamboo with a string attached. The indigenous Ainu people, who fear otherworldly beings and revere nature, would play the mukkuri while residing in the forests.


Japanese instruments can often be found in traditional Japanese shrines. The kagura-suzu, is a type of bell that is rung as a way of purification and invoking the divine spirit. The miko , the shrine maiden, uses this instrument as she dances the traditional kagura-mai dance. The kagura-suzu has a clear and dignified sound as it is often used during Shinto rituals.


Sanshins are stringed Japanese instruments that are used in Okinawa. The Sanshin consists of a wooden body with a section of snakeskin, in which three strings of differing thickness are plucked to produce music. If you want to hear the unique sound of the sanshin it is recommended that you visit restaurants that serve Okinawan cuisine in large cities like Tokyo, as sometimes you will be lucky enough to hear the sanshin. 
Much like the craft that goes into creating Japanese instruments, at Atelier Japan all of our pieces are handcrafted by the most skilful artisans, encapsulating true detail and design. From fans and jewellery to pottery and tea, our collections are as bespoke as their designer. Visit the Atelier Japan website to browse our unique pieces and add a touch of traditional craft to your life.
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Onsen: Relaxing with a auspacious view

An onsen is a Japanese hot spring, with the term also extending to cover the bathing facilities and traditional inns frequently placed and enjoyed around a hot spring. As a volcanically active country, Japan has thousands of onsen scattered throughout all of its major islands. Onsen come in many types and shapes, including outdoor and indoor baths. Onsen baths may be either publicly run by a municipality or privately, often as part of a hotel, ryokan, or bed and breakfast. Let’s take a look at some onsen etiquette and how you can kick back and relax in one of Japan’s natural hot springs.


One thing to note about onsen if you haven’t encountered them before is the dress code. Sometimes being the factor that puts individuals off visiting onsen can be the no swimwear policy. You may be anxious at first, but once you have bared all, it doesn’t take long to get used to it. For those who fancy something more private, there are many traditional ryokan inns where the guest rooms have private rotenburo baths attached and in some inns, public baths are available for private use upon request. Another onsen alternative is to visit a bath that has predominantly milky water, meaning visibility is limited.


Cleanliness is a large part of the Japanese onsen experience. The idea of Western practices of washing yourself in a bath is seen as unhygienic in the eyes of the Japanese. When visiting a communal sento or onsen it’s important to keep the water as clean as possible, which means showering before entering the spring. 
Every onsen in Japan has a row of showers that go around the outside of the bath. Soaps, shampoos, and conditioners are usually provided, though you can also bring your own if you choose. It’s key to remember that you are expected to sit down using one of the stools provided whilst you wash; it’s considered bad manners to stand whilst you wash, as you could splash someone next to you. It’s also important to ensure that you rinse thoroughly to ensure that no soap enters the bathwater. Although not as important, locals sometimes rinse themselves under the shower after soaking in the onsen or if they are returning from a sauna or steam room.

Entering the water

To ensure that the onsen is as clean as possible, it’s important to know that if you have long hair, you will be required to tie it up or wrap it in a small towel. Although you are encouraged to wash your hair in the shower beforehand, this is to maintain the cleanliness of the onsen by ensuring that hair doesn’t get into the water. Even if your hair is short, you are advised against putting your head under the water to avoid being exposed to any bacteria that could cause infection.


At any onsen in Japan, you will be given a small and a large towel, alternatively, there will be a choice to rent or sometimes you can bring your own. Large towels are used for drying yourself and should be kept in the changing room, whilst the small towel is used for washing and can be taken into the communal bathing area. You can even take your small towel into the bath with you, but you mustn’t let it enter the water, so many guests keep their small towels on their head whilst relaxing in the onsen.


Tattoos can be seen as something of a taboo in Japan, which means that most onsen across the country has a ban on tattoos. If you have an unnoticeable or small tattoo, you may be able to enter the onsen if you cover it with a plaster or bandage. If you have larger tattoos that are difficult to cover, you may not be allowed to enter. However, if you really wanted to try out these hot springs, you could visit ryokan inns where there are private rotenburo baths or onsen that can be rented for private use.
At Atelier Japan, we encourage our customers to explore Japanese culture. From our handcrafted inlay jewellery to our fans that have been produced using ancient techniques, there is a piece of Japanese culture in each and every product in our collection. Visit the Atelier Japan website to browse our auspacious products and purchase your own piece of Japanese craft.
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