Japan has long been known for its cat cafes - places where the pet-starved residents of the country can enjoy a hot cup of java whilst being nuzzled by some loving kitties. Now there is a new trend that seems to be emerging across the country's capital, Tokyo - owl-themed cafes, complete with the live nocturnal birds in tow!
Each cafe is unique and features the birds in its own way. At one of the pioneers of the 'Fukurou' or 'owl' cafe trend - the Cafe Little Zoo in the greater Tokyo region, the birds await the visitors outside the doors. While that is exciting, what is even more so, is the live snakes that customers encounter when they step inside. They can either opt to admire the reptiles from a distance or request to 'play' with them, whilst enjoying the cafe's delicious food. While the popularity of this 20-seat cafe, which now needs reservations has resulted in many copycats, most seem to have kept away from the reptiles.
Tori no Iru, a small cafe near Tokyo's Kiba Station is home to a Harris Hawk, Eurasian Eagle Owl and a number of parakeets, parrots and smaller birds. According to the owner who allows customers to touch and hold the birds, they are all former pets that she now shares with her patrons. Not surprisingly, her cafe too now needs reservations.
Situated near the city's Tsukishima Station, The Fukuoro no Mise (owl shop), not only features the live birds, but also, owl-themed sweaters, cards and other goods. And for those that are inspired enough, advice and the necessary equipment to take a bird home. Given that all their birds have been raised in captivity and are docile enough to be petted whilst drinking coffee, they sure know a thing or two about raising them.
While food is obviously a secondary attraction at these cafes, it is still given the same importance, with the owners going out of their way to create interesting looking owl-inspired cuisine served in similarly themed utensils of course!
Though the Japanese seem to be comfortable around the birds, experts warn that they are unpredictable and can be dangerous, if provoked. But they all feel that this is a better way to experience the owls than bringing them home as pets, because besides being treacherous, they are also smelly and very noisy. As to how the cafe owners manage to keep these nocturnal animals wide awake during the day? That remains a mystery!
And while having cafes with all kinds of animals may appear a little strange to most of us, for Japanese residents it is sometimes the only way to get close to them. That's because most apartment complexes in the country have a strict no-animal policy!
Resources:pfsk.com, blog.japantimes.co, lonelyplanet.com