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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 Myths and Legends: An ancient approach

Japan, like many other countries and cultures, has a rich and mysterious tradition of Japanese Myths and Legends passed down from generation to generation. As is true of any myth, the stories often have different versions and can contrast hugely. Much of Japan’s history is already steeped in mystery, so it can be difficult to distinguish myth from history.

Japan’s Gods and the Creation Myths

There are many religious Japanese Myths and Legends to explore. In Shinto religion, gods are synonymous with nature and are one and the same. There are thousands of kami (deities) in Japan, as there are local gods of every region and town, and many Japanese will revere the kami of their nearest shrine. However, there are also famous deities recognised by all as the main gods of Japanese Myths and Legends. In the Kojiki (‘Record of Ancient Myths) and the Nihon Shoki, which both chronicle Japan’s history and legend, the gods come about in the creation story through particles forming the heavens where the gods appear. These gods are collectively known as the ‘Kotoamatsukami’.
When these celestials formed the earth, more gods appeared. Izanagi (the ‘exalted male’ deity) and Izanami (the ‘exalted female’ deity) are perhaps the most famous of the gods, as they are sent to rule on earth and start life there. They eventually have children, after a failed attempt where two abominations were formed, to the eight great islands of Japan, all representing different aspects of nature. When Izanami died in childbirth, one legend is that Izanagi, stricken with grief, travelled to ‘Yomi’, the underworld, to bring her back. He was too late as her body had already decayed. Izanagi had to flee the underworld after Izanami, who had eaten food there and become one of the dead and decaying spirits, chased him. When he escaped, he purified himself from the effects of Yomi, which fits in with the Japanese ideology of death and decay as impure. From the water of his left eye Amaterasu was formed; from his right eye, Tsukiyomi-no-Mikoto the moon god; and from his nose, Susanoo, the trickster god of the sea.

Amaterasu and Susanoo

These two of the three are particularly notorious in Japanese Myths and Legends and modern-day Japan. In all stories surrounding the two, they are seen to have distinct sibling rivalry. Susanoo is often represented as an annoying brother who loved to play tricks and upset Amaterasu. There is also a common portrayal of him as a ‘snot-nosed’ boy, and several stories that suggest he was formed from snot. In the most widely accepted version of the myth of Amaterasu and Susanoo, the brother terrorises his sister after they had a competition to see who could produce the most divine children, by throwing a half-flayed horse (Amaterasu’s sacred animal) into her weaving hall. The display upsets Amaterasu so much that she runs away and shuts herself up in a cave. Since she is the Sun Goddess, the world and the heavens fall into darkness, causing the other gods to get involved. They all go to the cave to try to get her to come out, but she refuses. In the end, she is caught by a ‘strong-armed’ god when she peeks out of her hiding place to see an amusing display put on by the goddess of merriment. The Sun is restored to the universe and Susanoo is exiled. However, on earth he saves a human girl from a dragon which he then defeats, and then marries the girl, creating descendants that Jimmu, the first emperor of Japan in legend, is said to relate to.

The Hare of Inaba

Moving away from Japanese Myths and Legends surrounding gods, Japan has many legends concerning morals and metaphorical political ideals. One of these is the tale of the ‘Hare of Inaba’. In one version of this urban myth, a hare tricks some crocodiles into forming a bridge for him to cross over to an island. The crocodiles learn of the trick and tear off all the hare’s fur. The hare, sobbing about his misfortune, is told by a group of men passing by that he should bathe in sea water and then dry in the sun. He follows this advice but this leads to more pain as the salt burns his wounds. Another man tells him to wash in fresh-water and to then roll in cattails pollen. This time it works and the grateful hare promises the man, who turns out to be the fairy Okumi-nushi-no-Mikoto, that he will marry the princess Yakami. This story is widely taken to metaphorically represent Japan’s struggle to escape barbarism and the beginning of modern Japan. The ‘Hare of Inaba’ is still one of the most popular Japanese Myths and Legends story today, and often features in festivals, artwork and shrines.

The Tale of Genji

Another famous Japanese Myths and Legends story was written by the noblewoman Murasaki Shikibu, who was also a lady-in-waiting, around the year 10,000 CE. Centering on Genji, the son of the emperor in the tale and his mistress, this story tells of Genji’s exploits at court. In the tale, Genji’s mother dies and this causes him to be branded a commoner by his father, since Genji was also not popular at court. After having ventures of his own outside court-life, Genji’s position in the palace is later restored after his father dies and the crown prince later abdicates in favour of a son who turns out to be Genji’s. This Japanese Myths and Legends story is believed to be representative of contemporary court life, and provides unrivalled insight into the life of nobles and imperials at this time, despite being entirely fictional.

Mythology Represented on Atelier Japan

Japanese Myths and Legends still have a firm place in current Japanese society, and influence many art forms and religious representations. Atelier Japan features fans, produced by our wonderful makers Komaruya, that embody these ancient Japanese Myths and Legends. The Japanese God of Thunder fan and the Japanese God of Wind fan both draw on the heritage of Japanese kami, and the Tale of Genji fan showcase this legendary story that still has relevance with Japanese society today. Browse our website to discover our unique range of handcrafted Japanese products. 

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Japanese Architecture: Beautifully built buildings

Japanese architecture a standout feature when taking in Japan’s surroundings. The country exhibits a variety of interesting buildings, houses, palaces, temples and shrines, each with their own unique styles. Japanese architecture has evolved vastly from ancient to modern times as early native designs were exposed to strong influences from the Asian mainland. Over time, styles have changed to suit more local tastes and recent history even shows the introduction of Western architecture into Japan.

Preserving architecture

Traditionally, Japanese architecture saw buildings built from wood due to an abundance of timber and the material’s relatively good resistance to earthquakes. Unfortunately, many buildings were lost over the years from Japan’s natural disasters, humid climates, fires and conflict. Given this, a lot of effort has gone into protecting and preserving Japanese architecture, including monumental buildings such as shrines, temples, palaces and castles. Japan is continuing to make efforts to reconstruct and renovate lost buildings of importance all across the country. Today, Japanese architecture has become quite a popular tourist attraction with beautiful pieces that can be seen all across the country.

Intricate history

The distinct look of Japanese architecture dates back to around early 57BC. Before this point, Japanese architecture consisted of wood and dirt floors with very little features differentiating them from homes across the globe. Architects up to this point and until 660AD were influenced by Korea, where buildings were made from stone and timber, however, there are very few remains of these early structures left.
The most important pieces of Japanese architecture are that of shrines, which showcased the very best skills that Japanese architects had to offer. Although shrines were often torn down and rebuilt, newer versions always remained faithful to the original design. The style of shrines heavily influences that of domestic and modern Japanese architecture in terms of its tower design and building materials. Japanese architecture went through several periods of innovation during the history of Japan, with the early 7th Century being dominated by early wooden structures. As Japan entered the Heian Period, in the 9th century, Chinese influences made their mark in Japanese architecture. Wooden temples began to emerge in greater numbers in new styles that were different yet still reminiscent of traditional Japanese design.
As Japan entered into the Kamakura and Muromachi eras, Japanese architecture was characterised by a far simpler design. The major development and design of tea houses became an important cultural statement in Japan. Shortly, Japanese zen architecture, Japanese Buddhist architectural style derived from Chinese Song Dynasty architecture, allowed for the building of castles during the 17th century. These castles were built in a similar style to that of shrines, with wooden structures and contrasting protruding roofs that retained elegance.
After World War II, Japan quickly modernized with the introduction and influence of Western architecture leading to some new and freshly designed buildings made from metal and concrete. Now, Japanese architecture continues to use new materials and different designs whilst still emphasising traditional, religious influences for building and homes that are elegant and unique.

Interior aesthetic

When we think about Japanese architecture, we usually overlook that of the inside aesthetic. Many Japanese buildings boast beautiful exteriors, however, the indoor architecture and aesthetics are just as important and intricate. The most typical feature you will find in Japanese architecture is wood. In old Japanese houses, wood was given great respect and was not concealed by paint or other coatings; it was used in its natural form so that the grain could be appreciated. Influences from Shinto and Buddhism influences come through in the naturalness of Japanese architecture. Both religions have strong connections with nature, amplifying the use of natural light and raw wood.
Another traditional aesthetic feature of Japanese architecture is that of screens and sliding doors. These natural and light screens tend to be constructed of paper and are often handpainted. They are designed to divide and re-divide rooms whilst still allowing for the flow of light and shadows. These features of Japanese architecture and aesthetics have become very common amongst Western countries, who have been inspired by Japanese design and translated into their own aesthetic.
Looking to add some display aesthetic pieces that are assimilated with Japanese design and architecture? At Atelier Japan we have an exquisite collection of pottery, fans and decorative ornaments that have been handcrafted to add something unique and authentic to your home. Explore our collections to discover more of our unique pieces designed to bring meaning to your interior.

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Japanese Customs: All you need to know about travelling in Japan

When it comes to Japanese customs, there is a lot to take in, but understanding just why it is that they are carried out is quite interesting to explore. If you’re planning on visiting this unique culture, improving your knowledge of Japanese customs can be very worthwhile and make your journey a whole lot simpler. Let’s take a look at the top ten Japanese customs you need to know before jetting off to the beautiful country.

#1 Addressing Others

Bowing is a highly important part of Japanese customs. Japanese customs are influenced by their views on respect, especially when you are addressing someone. How you address another person will depend on their position and the circumstance. A simple inclination of the head or an attempt at a bow at the waist is sufficient in showing signs of respect. A friend may receive a short and swift bow whereas an office superior may receive a slower, more extended bow.

#2 Table Manners

When it comes to Japanese customs, table manners are highly important. Some simple Japanese customs to take in include slurping noodles and making loud noises while dining as this is accepted to show you are enjoying your meal. Raising a bowl to your mouth is a custom that is accepted throughout Japan to make your meal easier to eat with chopsticks, and before eating it is polite to say ‘itadakimasu’, or ‘I will receive’.
Japanese customs also suggest that if you’re with a dinner party and receive drinks, wait before raising the glass to your lips. When dining you will receive a small wet cloth to use to wash your hands before eating. This towel, or ‘Oshibori’, has long been part of hospitality culture in Japan for visitors to use.

#3 No Tipping

Japanese customs suggest that there should be no tipping in any situation in Japan, as it is seen as an insult. A price is a price in Japan, whether it is a taxi journey, restaurant meal or personal care, tipping isn’t something that’s carried out as the services you have asked for are covered by their original price.

#4 Chopsticks

When it comes to Japanese customs, chopsticks play a large role. Depending on where you choose to dine in Japan, you may be required to use chopsticks. If for some reason you can’t already use chopsticks or are yet to experience them during dining, you should have fun trying to learn this traditional Japanese eating technique before passing up the opportunity.

#5 Thresholds

When entering all homes, most business and hotels, it’s typical to remove your shoes. Again, Japanese customs are based on their focus on respect and removing your shoes is a great way to demonstrate your understanding of this important part of Japanese culture. Usually, a rack will be provided to store your shoes, and a pair of guest slippers will be sitting nearby to bring you comfort.

#6 Masks

It’s not uncommon for you to see people of Japan wearing sterilized masks. Commonly used day to day in Japan, these masks are used to protect both the wearer and others from germs. They are nothing to be concerned about, in fact, Japanese customs such as this one are there to protect you from colds and germs that could hinder your travels.

#7 Individuality

Japanese customs focus closely on the people of Japan. The population of Japan don’t tend to draw attention to their individuality. It’s customary to make sure that you don’t blow your nose in public, try to avoid eating while on the go, and don’t speak on your cell phone in crowded public areas to avoid drawing attention to yourself.

#8 Bathing

Japanese customs embrace public bathhouses. Sento, or neighbourhood bathhouses, can be found all across the country from the largest areas in Shinjuku to the small towns on the island of Shikoku. Onsen, or hot springs, are also very popular as a weekend excursion.
If you are to be invited into a Japanese household, as the guest you will be given the honour of using the bath first. Being extra careful to make sure that you don’t dirty the water in any way is very important as it is the sanctity of the ofuro, a traditional Japanese type of bath.

#9 Speaking English

When it comes to Japanese customs, the people you meet Japan will generally assume that you are a native English speaker. The people of Japan are also not afraid to directly ask you where you are from, Japanese customs like this are friendly and bridge the language barrier. Japanese people know their language is difficult to master, therefore, many Japanese people will try to use English to communicate with you.

#10 Safety

Japan has a very low crime rate, which is evident throughout its cities. When it comes to Japanese customs, it’s not uncommon for Japanese people to warn you to be safe in your travels and to take care of your belongings. In fact, Japan is known for its indoor ATMs, parking lot attendants and security guards which are on hand to reduce crime and help visitors and civilians feel safe.
At Atelier Japan, our collection of traditional Japanese craft captures the true essence of Japanese culture. From traditional matcha tea to auspicious pottery. Visit our marker collections to browse our ranges of handcrafted tea, silverware, pottery, jewellery and fans that are handcrafted by artisans of Japan.

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Golden Week – Japan's National Holidays

Japanese National HolidaysJapan’s culture is known to be one of the most traditional and rich in the world. The people of Japan host an abundance of celebrations each year that have become embedded in their culture throughout their very long cultural history. Golden Week brings together four different national events as one huge celebration of Japan’s rich culture. Golden Week is an important and special time for much of Japan’s population with most choosing to take part in the celebrations. Whether it’s adorning their homes and neighbourhoods with bright and colourful decorations such as vibrant lanterns and Koinobori or heading to local celebrations for each event with close friends and family, this traditional goings-on is a way for each and every person to recognise and honour both Japan’s culture and its community.

Constitution Day

Constitution Day is just one of the important celebrations within Golden Week. The meaning of democracy has become an important aspect of Japanese culture; Constitution Day was chosen as the day to reflect on democracy and its role within the Japanese government. In the early noughties, newspapers reported on a part of the Japanese constitution that focuses on settling international disputes. Although article nine came into effect after the second world war in the late 1940’s, the reports in the newspapers demonstrate how Constitution Day brings reflecting on the importance of democracy back into relevance today.

Greenery Day

Japanese National HolidaysThe environment and nature are highly respected in Japanese culture. Emperor Hirohito had an incredibly strong interest in plants and the beauty of nature, so much so that he established a day to celebrate all of its wonders. Greenery Day traditionally encourages the people of Japan to nurture and reflect on nature. The main event during Greenery Day is a festival held in Tokyo which is attended by the reigning Emperor and Empress. After addressing and greeting the attendees of the festival, the guests of honour carry out the historic tradition of planting a tree and sowing seeds. After the opening ceremony, the celebrations of Greenery Day continue with processions of Japanese floats along Japan’s beautiful, flowing rivers. As this significant day comes to an end, the dark night skies of Japan are illuminated with bright paper lanterns and mesmerising fireworks to mark the close of Greenery Day in the most stunning way possible. Not everyone in Japan is able to attend the main event, instead, many choose to celebrate this day by either planting trees or reflecting upon nature in other thoughtful activities.

Showa Day

As a highly important figure, the birthday of Emperor Hirohito is a day to be celebrated nationally. After the Emperor’s death in 1989, Showa Day was established to commemorate his life. The day’s importance is revealed even further when considering that it even moved the traditional Greenery Day from its original date from the 29th of April to the 4th of May. Showa Day encourages the public to reflect on the turbulent six decades of Hirohito’s reign and how he acted as a role model for many.

Children’s Day

Japanese National HolidaysThe 5th day of the 5th month in the year marks the final celebration of Golden Week; Children’s Day has been a national holiday since 1948, however, it has been a day of celebration in Japan since ancient times. This last event honours the individual strengths of children along with their happiness and the joy that they bring. Many of the traditions of Children’s Day use food to symbolise the meaning of the day. One of the most popular traditions is for those celebrating the festival to eat rice cakes that have been filled with bean paste and wrapped in oak leaves to symbolise strength.


Koinobori are perhaps the most recognised symbol of Golden Week. These traditional decorations are beautifully designed to feature bright and vibrant colours to ensure that they can be seen from afar. The Koinobori are often hung so that they can float in the wind just how they would appear when swimming in the rivers or the sea. The Koinobori are traditionally displayed to represent a family; the Black carp represents the father figure, this carp holds the Japanese name of Magoi and is usually the largest fish. The Red carp, which is known as the Higoi, represents the mother. The last carp is usually green or blue in colour and, as the smallest fish, represents the child of the family, traditionally the son. Above the family of koi sits a colourful flying dragon streamer.

Celebrate Golden Week With Gifts From Atelier Japan

The luxury handcrafted collections on Atelier Japan link perfectly to Japan’s rich culture and the traditions of the national holidays of Golden Week. From perfectly blended Matcha and fine hand-painted pottery to beautifully crafted ornaments, the creations from our expert makers are a wonderful way to celebrate Golden Week at any time of the year.
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