The Cuddle District

10 February 2022 by Kelly Luce in Places

Tokyo’s Cuddle District has come into its own. The once-desolate area known as Fishbone Alley was reinvented last spring by social architect Rio Yamato. Now the neighborhood is home to nine experiential cafés in which customers can hold and be held. In Japan’s increasingly touch-averse society, many find the district to be a comfort. Here’s a taste of a few hot spots:

Nyaa-chan no Ashi (Little Kitty Feet): What was once your run-of-the-mill cat café has morphed into the world’s first kitten-based massage parlor. Clients lie in velveteen pods. Once in position they press a button, signaling an attendant to drape them with sleepy, just-fed kittens. The use of puppies was ruled out after too many “accidents” in early testing.

Café Suwada: from the English word “swaddle,” that’s exactly what you can do — or have done — at this darling, pink-and-blue nursery-themed café. Choose from “Friend-time,” which allows you to wrap your date tightly in a blankie so his or her hands and feet are completely bound, or “Parent-time,” in which a pro will swaddle and hold you. Add-ons include being rocked to sleep, being read to, and being bottle-fed with the beverage of your choice. (Breast milk is on the menu, and marked “seasonal.”) Group and party rates available.

Hold On! is the most clinical of the bunch — part doctor’s office, part old-time suburban health spa. The service is straightforward: a certified dakishi-hito, or “Embracer,” lies on a futon with the client and holds them. Clients may alternate between spoon and face-to-face configurations. Light caresses and comforting murmurs included.

Bar Cuddle: Fancy a hug from Totoro? How about Godzilla? With its extensive cosplay wardrobe, light-up stools and black light posters, Bar Cuddle is a throwback to the days of throwbacks (anyone remember the late 00s?). Clients can choose to remain in street clothes, or put on a costume. Those who wear costumes must hug anyone who asks, making this something of a self-service operation — a bar, some critics say, that’s little more than a fetish hub. Fans of Hello Kitty will be disappointed as the brand refuses to allow her likeness in the bar. Not because they’re against it; Sanrio is rumored to be opening its own high-end cuddle bar next year, with professional actors donning the fur.


Sirens columnist Kelly Luce is the author of a novel, Kireru, and a story collection, Three Scenarios in Which Hana Sasaki Grows a Tail. She’s the founder and director of Ad Astra, a nonprofit that provides services to homeless women and girls.

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