Meow Parlor

In March, the three roommates (myself included) headed to their first cafe. 

Cat Cafe, that is. 


Animal cafes are places where people pay money to eat small cookies, drink coffee and play with animals. These cafes are conveniently organized by species: dog, cat, rabbit, goat etc. They’ve become wildly popular in Japan and the growing fad has brought this phenomenon across the ocean and straight to the Big Apple. 

Roommate Megan found out about the Meow Parlor opening on the Lower East Side and immediately signed us up. There was a one month waiting list. ONE MONTH. So with baited (and not so baited breath) we awaited our chance to get our paws on this exciting trend. IMG_2685

For a mere $4, cat lovers can play for a half hour with the cuddly felines. In the entryway, guests are instructed to remove their coats and shoes before entering the kitty space. Coffee, teas and an assortment of cookies are for sale past the main desk. The air inside was surprisingly warm and dense. Not in a bad or unpleasant way, more like the air in a warm slightly dusty living room housing many…well, cats. 

All the cats in the Meow Parlor are up for adoption. There is a book on the table with a name, picture and de-tail-ed description of each potential adoptee. On the floor and along the back bookshelf, boxes and small cat beds are displayed for the cats to roam around and sleep freely. Megan found an adorable little tabby and gently stroked its head. 

Megan (left) with cat (right)

We stayed, we played and watched the cats. They slept, mostly, unless agitated into playing with the feather on a string or darting past newcomers legs as they walked past. For people who cannot have cats or any animals in their small New York apartments, I saw the appeal of this cat haven. Hopefully each of the fuzzy kitties would be taken to kind and safe homes before the end of their nine lives. Toward the end of the evening, Roommate Daina realized that in fact she was slightly allergic to cats and the three of us had to vacate the premise. 

“I’d love to stay,” Daina said. “But we have to go. Right meow.”

Note the square cat beds, pensive real cat, and pensive cat picture (bottom right)

From Japan to Egypt

When one bubble bursts, another is just waiting to go sailing up into the sky. 

For those of you who read my last blog, you are aware of my recent life goal to get one of the free airplane tickets distributed by the Japanese tourism bureau. If you read my comments in addition to my blog, you are already aware that the offer to attract 10,000 lucky bloggers has BEEN CANCELED. That’s right folks. My bubble has been popped.

I learned of these unfortunate circumstances from a fellow blogger JD Japan who kindly wrote:

“Sorry to burst your bubble but I’ve read that they’ve cancelled this offer almost a month ago. Don’t give up your life ambition to go to Japan just because you can’t get a free ticket though. My friend and I were very disappointed as well when we read this article but that’s not going to stop us going there this year!” along with the link announcing the cancellation.

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t disappointed. A month ago it seemed as if the seven Japanese gods themselves were beckoning me to the “homeland” to wake up and find their godlike favor revoked. The Katelyn-goes-to-Japan fund is currently accepting generous donations.

Another bubble was popped last night in the form of an e-mail from the director of the Davis Projects for Peace initiative on campus. Projects for Peace was started by international philanthropist Kathryn W. David and provides $10,000 to college students with project ideas for peaceful initiatives across the world. Unfortunately, I was under the false impression that the deadline for project and proposed budget submissions were due on the 31st instead of the 23rd so I had less than 12 hours to formulate my idea. While my project to build a small library with donated books in a Philippine fishing village was not chosen, the selected committee was very supportive and provided the project with great feedback should I apply next year. Trial and tribulations of a graduating senior.

Now I have set my sights on another program located in a distinctly different climate, known more for pyramids and deserts than sushi or white sand beaches. While Las Vegas is a close second, I’m talking about Presidential Scholars Program at The American University in Cairo, Egypt– a one-year fellowship opportunity for graduating seniors from US colleges and universities. The program was listed on the BRIDGE, our university’s online database for internships and jobs. I stumbled upon it quite accidentally, as do many students who are not consciously looking to spend a year in northern Africa. As an applicant, you are required to rank three of the seven available positions at the university including Office of the President, Office of Development and (my personal favorite) the Desert Development Center focused on creating sustainable livelihood projects for Egypt’s desert communities. It’s different from ANYTHING I saw myself upon graduation and the application is due January 31st. Time to get a move on.

Life is nothing more than sending a finite number of bubbles into the universe. Some perfectly formed spheres find their way onto sharp tree branches and shiny needle points but others grow, unencumbered by gravity, and float their way to new heights. I say create bubbles early and often because the world can’t possibly pop them all.

New Life Goal: Free Trip to Japan

In an attempt to boost tourism, Japan will be offering 10,000 free airplane tickets to lucky travelers from across the world. The program is rumored to begin in April 2012 in order to generate the tourism economy currently suffering from the recent earthquake and nuclear power disaster less than a year ago. The catch? Each ticket recipient must blog about his or her travel experience for the duration of the stay. Bloggers with a strong following and those capable of encouraging others to visit the wealthy island nation are encouraged to apply.

Am I one of those highly influential bloggers the Japanese tourism industry is looking for? Probably not. But my life’s new ambition is to receive one of the 10,000 magical boarding passes. Like Charlie, I will buy as many chocolate candy bars as possible to increase my chances of winning a “golden ticket” to the land of the Rising Sun. Since neither of my uncles had children of their own, I represent the final generation of individuals who bear the family name Tsukada. My name is more Japanese than any other part of my life and I want to learn everything I can about it’s origin and history.

In the two times I have traveled to Japan in the past, my combined visits totaled less than four hours. Both to and from the Philippines, I remained behind the thick glass windows of the Tokyo airport munching on green tea Kit-Kats and picturing the world outside. It was with reluctance that I boarded my connecting flight, whispering I’ll be back, before the island archipelago disappeared from view.

As a Japanese-American, I am constantly reminded of my identity and cultural heritage. Strangers I meet for the first time often ask me where I am from or what my ethnicity is. Many want to know if I can speak Japanese and make sushi on a regular basis. I want to tell them, “I’m as Asian as you!” but I simply say, “No, I am the fourth generation born in the United States. My father didn’t speak the language but I do hope to learn more about my culture in the future.” Nobody wants to know if I can speak Italian or have ever traveled to southern Italy, the home of my mom’s grandparents. So as long as I look Asian, I might as well learn as much about Japan as possible. 

I wonder if Japanese citizens will notice the slant of my eyes and color of my hair. Will they be able to tell I am half-Japanese? It’s hard to say and my distinctly American accent will not help me blend in. Even if I don’t win one of those free tickets to Japan, it is a future destination that comes ahead of most places in the world. So I’ll brush up on my chopstick skills, practice the correct pronunciation of Konichiwa, and hope for the best.