Currently in Tokyo, large-scale redevelopment is progressing in Shibuya and Shinjuku, with a rush to construct new buildings. Amidst this, Yanaka has many historical buildings that have been preserved from long ago, maintaining their appearance while undergoing repeated renovations. As an area where you can feel the good old charm of Japan, I like the atmosphere that makes you feel relaxed when you visit.

Yanaka Ginza, just a short walk from JR Nippori Station, has a strong atmosphere of a traditional Japanese downtown area due to its history as a temple district. It has become a tourist spot for overseas visitors because it is also photogenic.

Among the many fashionable galleries, cafes, and restaurants lining the shopping street, Cafe Neko Emon, a cafe renovated from a house over 90 years old, is particularly popular. It is highly reputed not only for lunch and tea but also for the experience of painting beckoning cats, although reservations are required.

I love cats, so I am healed every time I visit by the cat-themed sweets and goods.

What is a Maneki-neko?

Maneki-neko is a lucky charm in the shape of a cat with its front paw raised in a beckoning pose. It is said to have originated from the Edo townspeople culture during the Edo period.

A cat with its right paw raised invites good fortune, while a cat with its left paw raised invites people. Many avoid the cat with both paws raised as it means giving up.

The height of the raised paw also differs. If the paw is raised above the ears, the longer the paw extends, the further or greater the luck it brings. If the paw is lower than the ears, it is said to invite small, close-by luck.

The orthodox Maneki-neko from long ago is white in color. The purity of white signifies attracting all kinds of good fortune. In recent years, various colored Maneki-neko have appeared, such as black cats for warding off evil, red cats for warding off illness, and gold cats for financial fortune.

Reasons to Recommend Cafe Neko Emon

Exterior Evoking Old Japan

Cafe Nekoemon exterior
Source: Official Website

The building, renovated from a house over 90 years old, has a charming atmosphere reminiscent of old Japan, giving the sense of having slipped back in time to the Showa era.

At the entrance is a pure white noren curtain with the store name written on it, brightening the solemn impression of the black-based building and making it stand out from afar.

Above the noren is a signboard with "NEKO EMON" written in a cat design. There is also a standing signboard at the storefront with recommended menu items written not only in Japanese but also in English, making it easy for overseas visitors to enter casually.

Experience Painting Maneki-neko!

Source: Official Website

Although it is a cafe, you can experience painting Maneki-neko. By painting ceramic Maneki-neko with colored pens, even beginners and children can easily try it.

There are samples available, so those who are unsure can refer to them as they work, making the process smoother. The activity takes about 30 minutes to an hour to complete, which is attractively not too time-consuming.

The painting experience comes with a choice of drink and a cat-themed sweet, so you can enjoy it while taking a break. Once you've completed your original Maneki-neko, they will put a cushion on it and even wrap it for you, making it perfect as a souvenir. Reservations can be easily made by selecting the number of participants and desired date and time from the "Make a Reservation" section of the website.

Recommended Menu at Cafe Neko Emon

Panne cotta

Panne cotta
Source: Tabelog

The panne cotta, with its smooth and creamy texture in a clear glass, is topped with plenty of strawberry sauce.

Although the panna cotta has the richness of fresh cream, the balance with the sweet and sour strawberries is exquisite, making it easy to eat even for those who don't like sweets.

On top is a cat-shaped marshmallow so realistic and cute that it seems a waste to eat. The contrast of white panna cotta and red strawberry sauce is colorful and photogenic.

Cat Eclair

Cat eclair
Source: Tabelog

This eclair faithfully recreates not only the cat's face but also its tail. The moist choux pastry is covered with chocolate and finished with a face drawn in chocolate pen.

Inside is a classic eclair with whipped cream sandwiched. The nicely baked choux pastry is fragrant and softens the sweetness of the chocolate. The amount of cream is modest, giving an easy-to-eat impression.

With its cute, smiling face, cat lovers will want to just gaze at it forever, making it hard to cut into with a fork.

Cream Anmitsu

Source: Tabelog

This cream anmitsu features bite-sized agar jelly with red beans, oranges, pineapple, cherries, ice cream, and a cat-shaped monaka wafer, eaten with the accompanying black sugar syrup. Anmitsu, a classic Japanese dessert, is a must-try.

The smooth agar jelly pairs perfectly with the rich, sweet black sugar syrup. Although it looks voluminous, you can easily finish it all. The toppings of fruit and red beans provide variety, so you won't get tired of eating it. You can fully enjoy the Japanese atmosphere that matches the retro interior.

If you look closely, the smiling cat design on the monaka is charming, and I always save it for last.

Access to Cafe Neko Emon

Address: 5-4-2 Yanaka, Taito-ku, Tokyo
6-minute walk from Sendagi Station on the Tokyo Metro Chiyoda Line

<Store Information>
- Closed: Mondays
- Phone: 03-3821-0090
- Hours: 11:00-18:00
- Official Website:

Recommended Ways to Visit

Although it can get crowded during popular times at this well-known cafe, you can enter on the day without a reservation if you are using it for lunch or tea. However, those wanting to experience painting the Maneki-neko must make an advance reservation using the dedicated reservation form on the website.

The painting experience comes with a choice of drink and sweet, making it a recommended way to try a uniquely Japanese activity. Sweets are also available for takeout. You can purchase the cookies they sell as well as the "Neko Monyaka" which has been ranked #1 in online shopping. The Neko Monyaka has colorful sugar candy and jelly scattered inside the monaka wafer. I often buy it as it's well-received when brought as a gift.