LIFE&STYLE

It’s a hoot hanging out with owls at Tokyo cafe

By Korea Herald
  • Published : Jan 23, 2015 - 21:20
  • Updated : Jan 23, 2015 - 21:20
TOKYO (AP) ― In the U.S., hanging out in a cafe with animals is such an exotic concept that people can’t get enough of it. A pop-up cat cafe in New York last year had lines down the block. Online reservations for another Manhattan cat cafe are almost fully booked more than two months ahead.

But in Japan, cat cafes are just the start. You can hang out in rabbit cafes or have coffee in Tokyo with two goats. And you’re not limited to domestic animals. You can also spend an hour at a cafe holding a great horned owl.

Judging by how complicated it was to get a reservation at Tokyo’s Fukuro no Mise (Shop of Owls), the owl cafes there are just as much of a hoot there as cat cafes are here.

To get a spot, visitors are supposed to line up an hour before Fukuro no Mise opens. But when I showed up an hour early, I was lucky to get the last seat for a session two hours later. There are no refunds on the 2,000 yen ($17) fee. If you’re late, you lose your slot.

Inside, I was given a list of detailed English instructions. For example, only touch the owls on the head or back. And while the owls are very tame, “they can’t be potty trained like dogs. So please be generous when they potty on you!” The woman in charge also gave a long talk and demonstration in Japanese before allowing each guest to hold a bird. 
Owls at Fukuro no Mise, which means Shop of Owls, in Tokyo (AP-Yonhap)

The owls come in various sizes and species, from tiny to quite large, including a great horned owl with large sharp claws and an impressive beak. Each bird has a tether around one foot, which you hold in your hand as they perch on your arm. Sleek and clear-eyed, the owls seem calm despite the fact that the small room is crowded.

The attentive staff will place the owl on your shoulder or head if you like (I declined in light of the warning about the lack of potty-training). Staff can also help if your owl starts to flap. Raising your hand in the air usually settles them down, but apparently I was holding my arm wrong, so a worker repositioned it. If you’ve had enough and want to just watch everyone else’s owls, they’ll relieve you of the bird.

Photography is forbidden in some of the oddest places in Japan, but this isn’t one of them. No flash is allowed (and no video) but posting a shot of yourself on social media holding an owl is clearly a goal for many visitors.

Unlike some other animal cafes in Japan, this place is only nominally a cafe. There’s no food but a small drink is included (alcohol costs extra).