While I was doing blog planning (my 2017 goal) the other day, I realized that somehow I managed to skip sharing one of my favorite Japan experiences: owl cafes! Animal cafes are a pretty big thing in Japan. You may have seen stories about cat cafes, for example. People tend to work long hours and may not have room for pets, so cafes provide the perfect chance to experience the joy a pet can bring into your life. For those looking for something extra special, may I present – the owl cafe.
I’ve been to two different owl cafes in Tokyo, both amazing, but with totally different feels to them:
Note that I have not been compensated by either of these cafes – you are just getting my awesome experiences.
For both of these you can pretty easily make reservations in advance online. You will definitely need to do that; you can’t just walk into these places and expect to play with owls. I say pretty easily because you may need to either A) know some Japanese or B) use some Google translate… but truly, do not let that stop you! If I could do it, so can you.
I went to Akiba Fukurou in the evening. There are basically 2 open and connected rooms that feel a bit like a dimly lit Ikea living room. The over 20 owls of literally every shape and size are perched throughout the space.
Here you have 1 hour to interact with the owls, including spending some significant time holding them if you would like. The staff does an excellent job situating you to be prepared for the surprising weight that these creatures have – propping your arm up, moving you around to get you in the most comfortable position, etc. Owls are clearly labeled if they are resting and not allowed to be touched. The setting is very quiet and zen. I have so much respect for these beautiful birds after being this close to them. And they are beyond soft! When you leave they take a picture of you with your owl to take with you as a souvenir – included in the purchase price.
Last fall I went to Owl Village Harajuku one afternoon. Completely different feel to this place. Make sure to check the map on the website. It is easy to get to, but some signage in the area might land you in the wrong spot – this place is not on the main street. Here there is a small cafe area where you do get your choice of beverage and can look at the owls through large glass doors. After a little sit, you are taken into the owl room which has large windows looking out to Harajuku – a much brighter environment than Akiba Fukurou, but about 1/4 the size.
This cafe had about 8 owls, again of various sizes and breeds. You are much closer to the owls on a continuous basis since it is a small room, but you also have a bit more flexibility to hold a greater number of owls – they will rotate them out for you more often. People talk freely here and it is not as quiet of an environment. In some ways this does make you feel less nervous about meeting an owl up close and personal. On your way out they give you a little gift like a button of Wasabi!
Both cafes have great, experienced staff and instructions are provided in several languages including English. Both of these cafes will cost you just under $20 USD, but like so much of Japan just remember that you will need to come with cash. Think of how jealous all of your friends will be back home when you tell them that you got to hang out with owls for the afternoon.