Hello! My name is Ai, I am the manager of CAT’S INN TOKYO. Even so, I am also just a volunteer, not receiving any compensation. As founder of CAT’S INN TOKYO, and a lifelong supporter myself, I am involved in the overall management of CAT’S INN TOKYO.
Back then, I was just a cat and dog owner, but now, 10 and a half years have already passed since I became involved in animal protection after the Great East Japan Earthquake. In the beginning, I didn't have any knowledge at all, and when I think about it now, I was probably reckless and inconveniencing other people often. Along the way, all the cats, dogs and other animals I met have taught me many things, and the countless mistakes I made and learned from have brought me to where I am today.
We are dealing with living creatures so even when there are regrets or mistakes, once you get involved you can’t just quit.
I’ve kept on going these last 10 years but after opening the rescue cat cafe in 2016, it feels as if I’ve sprinted through the last 5 years. Every day, I am afraid of not being able to make things in time, but even then, my top priority is always “life”. I face every day with the determination that I will absolutely protect the cats involved.
Ever since we moved to Azusawa our entrance, the front garden and concrete wall, has been an issue.
We established our first rescue cat cafe in Itabashi Honcho but had to move out after only 2 years and 4 months due to the property owner’s circumstances. This left us with an uncollected loan of 5.2 million yen at the time of the relocating. There was no way that any financial institution would allow us to borrow any more money, so I was at a loss when I started looking for a new place to start over.
An acquaintance introduced me to the property of our new shop in the 23rd ward of Azusawa. A roadside, detached house with a garden of great value. Close to the station. In front of Azusawa park, a big park with lots of green, I fell for it at first sight. I was also enchanted by the large persimmon trees and summer mandarin orange trees in the garden. The landlord's family lives with 2 rescue cats and loves big cats. Saying "If it's for the sake of rescuing cats" he offered us cheaper rent.
However, the place was the former site of an in-home press workshop, without any utilities whatsoever. There was no insulation, no flooring, old sliding window frames with thin glass. In order to make this place safe and warm for cats to live in and be able to welcome customers, even with the “rescue cat” discount, we needed around 6 million yen. It was a new start overshadowed by a debt of over 10 million yen, which included not only the construction costs and equipment costs for the new shop, but also the old shop’s debt.
Needless to say, we didn’t have any money left.
We asked one of our rescue cat adopters, who works as a carpenter, to fix the building structures but we painted the walls by ourselves and all the furniture were gifts or personal belongings. As for the garden, our staff painted the fences by learning on the go, and our landlord laid boards along the pathway to the entrance and arranged potted plants that he had at hand. The store sign was also replaced with a chalk drawing board. Because of the windy hills of Azusawa, the board kept falling over so in the end I gave up and tied it to one of the trees.
The result was a signboard that doesn’t stand out, and an entrance that is barely noticed. Even our neighbors often told us they didn’t know our shop existed. On top of that, the plywood boards, that were laid to prevent muddy footprints on rainy days, began to get slippery over time, and we’ve had many people slip and fall. Also, since the entrance only has phosphorescent lighting it is dark at night which makes it harder to watch your step and there were concerns about crime prevention. This year, when a customer with crutches fell, I decided to start the construction.
We have already been in Itabashi for 5 years and have made many connections with locals and rescue cat adopters (people who have adopted the cats we rescued), with their help we would like to transform our garden into a place that is safe and bright and where people can take a break and enjoy themselves. By achieving this I hope we can increase our focus on our real goals: saving cats and finding them adoptive parents.
Thank you in advance for your support.
General Incorporated Association “CAT ’S INN TOKYO”
Representative director and shop manager Tomoko Ai