Japan has had a long history of having Cat cafes where people can lounge around and chill with cats, where other animal cafes have gained popularity over the past few years, these go as far as snake centres, hedgehog cafes and birds and owl cafes.
For people that worry about animal welfare in animal cafés: As an animal lover and also a person who’s done an animal biomedical science degree, I’ve always cared about animal walfare. After first hand experience I do believe the people who work at animal cafés genuinely care about the animals and have had their best interests at heart, these include the constant reminder of rules of etiquette for every new-comer, listed rules in both Japanese and English in respecting animals and how to handle them correctly, long resting periods and top-notch animal husbandry.
Harry Cafe – ハリネズミ専門店 HARRY
Location: Tokyo, Minato-ku Roppongi 6-7-2 Chome, Iwahori Building 2/f (1 minute walk from Roppongi Station – Exit 3 Hibaya Line)
Prices: For 30 mins Playtime 1000 Yen on Weekdays; 1300 Yen on Weekends and Public Holidays
Before you go: Must remember to make a reservation online! We went on a Monday and the waiting time was around an hour (if you’re lucky), if you’re going on the weekends, it will probably be a very long wait! Last entry time is 7pm so be sure to go early!
My Experience: Hedgehogs have definitely gained the popularity as exotic pets over the past year or so, with their spiky bodies and super soft tummies, their palm-sized body makes it so much easier to keep as pets in small residences. At the cafe, they let you buy mealworms as snacks for 500Yen. After you pay for your 30 minutes, you’ll be ushered to the hedgehog residences to pick one to hold. The cafe urges every visitor NOT to exchange their hedgehogs with others and always sanitize hands before handling one. The shopkeepers also walk around to help visitors when they have trouble handling their spiky buddies. I picked a really sleepy one and mine slept the entire thirty minutes I was holding him!
Location: Located one floor above the Hedgehog Cafe, is a Playroom for Bunnies and Chinchillas.
Prices: For 30 mins Playtime 1000 Yen on Weekdays; 1300 Yen on Weekends and Public Holidays; 500 Yen for Snacks – Same as Hedgehog Cafe
My Experience: The bunnies have a longer resting period in comparison to hedgehogs, so once you’re seated and you’ve paid for your 30 minutes, the staff will bring you to the cages to choose your rabbit. There are two large cages for the resting bunnies with huge signs saying they need rest, for me I was very happy to see that they are very serious about the resting periods. Within a 30 minute timeslot, you will first cuddle with one bunny usually for around 15 minutes and the staff will alternate to a second one for the remaining time. They also give you a fleece blanket underneath the urine pads before putting your rabbit on your lap, and exchange to a new one when you get your second bunny.
Owl Cafe and Bar Owl Village
Located right in the heart of Harajuku, Shibuya is an owl cafe with a small selection of owls, most of them are tame and love to be touched, a few are youngsters and are still in training to be handled; there are many cute posters drawn up and stuck on all the visible places regarding what NOT to do – including loud noises, approaching from behind, screaming…so on, and posters with the owls’ names and a short description of what their personality are like, including a small paragraph/pictures describing if this owl prefers to be touched or fed.
Location: 1-21-15 Jingumae | Harajuku ATM Bldg. 4F, Shibuya 150-0001, Tokyo [Japan, 〒150-0001 Tokyo, 渋谷区Jingumae, 1 Chome−21−15, 原宿ATMビル]
* It is on the 4th floor of a pretty hidden buidling, but once you found the street, look for the dumpliings place and the entrance is next to a very authentic japanese restaurant. If you’re going in the afternoon, there will be a huge sign on the street. *
Prices: 1500 Yen for 60 minutes in the cafe including one soft drink/tea
My Experience: When you arrive you’ll be ushered into a seating area with the drink menu, here you choose your drink and wait until the caretaker takes you into the rooms where the owls are.
The caretaker will introduce all the owls to you, if you don’t remember their names and what you can or cannot do with them, don’t worry, there are really cute posters/signs drawn up with information about each owl.
Once he has talked about how to handle his owls, he will let you take turns to hold two to three of them, here’s me bonding with my favourite – Schola
Even though I’ve handled and worked with owls before when I completed my bachelor’s degree, I’ve really enjoyed the time in the cafe, it was really relaxing to play with these owls and enjoy a drink or two after a long day of walking/shopping in Japan, I would highly recommend my friends to at least check out one of these themed animal cafés when they next visit Toyko!
One more thing:
Flash photography is strictly forbidden in all the animal cafés so make sure you’ve turned it off to minimise the stress to the animals!
by Yours Truly, Veronica