Yushima is a charming neighborhood of Tokyo, not far from Akihabara and Kanda, which has retained a lot of its shitamachi (old downtown) flair. With its small shops and cheap eateries, not to mention the Yushima Tenmangu Shrine, it already has a lot to offer, but for cat lovers, there are two times a year when Yushima is the place to be, and that's during one of the neighborhood's biannual Neko Matsuri (Cat Festivals).

Several shops throughout the neighborhood collaborate to make it worth your while, there's a stamp rally in which you can also win cat money you can use at participating shops, there are workshops and performances, a cat photo contest, you can get a special cat seal to put in your seal book at Tsumagoi Shrine, and of course, you can also pick up cute cat goods and enjoy cat-themed food and drink items too.

Fortunately for those who are visiting Tokyo next month, the 10th Neko Matsuri is coming up between February 11th and March 1st.

Here's a small sample of what's waiting for you when you visit:

Neko Goods

Oukanjirushi Zakkaten 王冠印雑貨店 is a general store with a delightful collection of cat-themed goods featuring everything from chopsticks, cups and glasses to accessories and stationery. For example, these cat dolls:

Store exterior (during the festival):

For the complete list of participating stores, please visit the Neko Matsuri website here (click on 参加店舗紹介 from the top menu).

The stores are also displayed on the map below:

Neko Matsuri Fes Vol. 2

On February 22nd (Sat.) between 11:00 and 16:00 on the 5th floor of the Zenkoku Kaden Kaikan 全国家電会館, 40 cat-themed goods creators will be selling their original wares, there will be workshops you can participate in, and there'll be a stage where you'll see performances such as cat-costumed musicians performing classical music, and more!

Neko Noshes

Many of the participating shops offer cat-themed food and drinks. For example, here is coffee (with neko) at Eagle Cafe:

Or these delicious loaves of cat paw-printed bread at panda:

Or fresh salads and juices at Shiboriya 935:

Cat seal at Tsumagoi Shrine

On February 15th, 22nd and 29th, line up from 10:00 AM at Tsumagoi Shrine to get a very special cat-themed seal stamped in your goshuincho 御朱印帳 seal notebook:

Stamp Rally

Each participating store will stamp a special cat-themed stamp on your stamp book:

In addition, only at Neko Matsuri, you'll win Niboshiis (a special cat currency valid during the festival) in an amount commensurate to the number of stores you visit. Visit 3 stores to earn 100, 7 stores to earn 300, and 11 stores to earn 500 Niboshiis (100 Niboshii = 100 Yen)

For more information about Neko Matsuri, visit their homepage here.

By - Ben K.