Animal Cafes are basically petting zoos where you can sit, eat and drink. I went to one in Sapporo this past Saturday and got to experience this Japan trend for the first time with some other ALTs.
At the one we went to, owls were clearly the featured animal. There were at least six different ones that you could hold, including a beautiful snowy white owl with piercing yellow eyes and small black pupils. We steered clear of that one except for when we wanted to snap a picture, but did take turns holding the other ones. It was a lot of fun, and the shop staff was extremely calm for all the commotion going on. While the owls were resting silently on their perches, a small flock of multi-colored birds were squawking endlessly from their cages located in the middle of the shop. Nearby, a toddler was toting a cat around and unsuccessfully trying to prop it onto a chair. After repeated failed attempts and watching the poor cat crash to the floor from the child’s grip, the shopkeepers finally put the cat away to rest. (Animal rights activists would have had something not too nice to say I’m sure!) But despite the commotion, the animals all seemed calm and cared for.
On the wall were pictures of all the pets they feature, along with their names. In addition to the owls, my friends and I held hedgehogs and prairie dogs. I’d never held a hedgehog before. Aside from the spines, it was adorable, and kept trying to burrow into the scarf I was wearing. A friend explained that this was just its natural behavior. Having never seen a hedgehog before, I appreciated the explanation.
Some cafes, I hear, only serve drinks, but at this one you could order deserts or a small meal of what looked like potatoes and hot dogs. The menu was all in Japanese so deciphering it was left to our imagination and the faded hand-drawn pictures.
After leaving, we were charged based on how long we stayed, the food we ate, and what animals we chose. It was pricier than I thought, but can be really reasonable I think if you just want to get a picture with a snowy owl! All in all, it was a lot of fun.