When researching our trip to Japan, there was one thing that I INSTANTLY knew we had to do — visit one of Tokyo’s weird cafes. They have cafes with cats, puppies, turtles, snakes (NOPE!) and some cafes that I still really don’t understand (a chambermaid cafe?). But when I saw a cafe with owls. I mean, seriously. Owls? Sign me up! Forget the sanitation issues — I was ready for my Harry Potter moment.
Akiba Fukurou, just a 2 minute walk from Akihabara train station, looks like a regular apartment building from the outside. There is virtually no sign, but you’ll know you’re at the right place because of the snaking line of people out front.
Like many restaurants or tours in Japan, you can’t just show up. You need to have a reservation (made about a week in advance on their website). Once you pay up (about $15 USD per person), you’ll be handed a packet of thick reading material with the history of owls, lengthy descriptions on what they do (mostly sleep!) and how to pet them (basically, gently). Oh, and you’re not really allowed to talk much outside of whispers which I knew might be tough for me!
We were shown inside to our seats and I was freaking out. There were owls everywhere! And they were so cute!
Each owl has a name and the cafe rotates which owls can be handled in order to give them enough rest time (another reason why I chose this owl cafe over several others in Tokyo). You’re allowed to interact with all the owls (unless indicated on a sign above it) and you can pick 2 owls to hold for about 20 minutes each.
I was immediately drawn to a tiny gray owl named Kuppi who was snoozing away. As Kuppi was placed on my arm, the woman cryptically whispered in my ear, “Be careful… Kuppi doesn’t like to be touched.”
What? Of course, I pick the angry owl of the lot!
As if on cue, Kuppi started to crawl up my arm — digging his claws into my shoulder. Was Kuppi testing me? I breathed slowly — knowing that Kuppi was just inches from clawing my face off!
He eventually calmed down and made himself comfortable on my shoulder, where he remained for the next 20 minutes.
For my next owl, I decided to go big! I saw an owl named Gorilla who towered over the others. I immediately called the cafe worker over who braced as she slowly lifted him up.
The cafe server then handed me a thick leather glove and plopped the big guy on my extended arm. All was good until I realized Gorilla must have weighed about 40 lbs. How was I going to hold this owl for the next 20 minutes? I was barely holding it for 20 seconds and my arm was shaking!
The server saw my struggle (or heard my quiet yelps of pain!) and propped a plastic box under my arm. Ahhh, the relief! For the next 20 minutes I had a staring contest with Gorilla. And laughed at Kevin’s owls (both of which pooped on him and tried to frantically escape his grips!).
Finally, before leaving, you get your own owl photo shoot. I grabbed Kuppi (who bitterly stared in my direction) as Kevin’s owl tried to flap away. But the photographer snapped our picture which made it (almost) seem like the owls loved us!
The whole experience is 1 hour but it flew by. And I can guarantee it’s one weird and wonderful Japanese experience you won’t want to miss — even if you end up covered in poop or almost have your eyes pecked out! It’s all part of the fun.
BEFORE YOU GO:
– Reservations essential. Book online on their website about 1 week before your visit.
– Pay in cash only (1500 yen, or $15 USD per person).
– Arrive early! Everyone in Japan is on time (meaning you need to get there early so you’re actually on time!).
– It’s open every day except for Tuesdays.
– You’ll need to bring your quiet voice — no hooting or hollering. They like to keep a quiet environment in order to not stress out the owls.
– There are actually no drinks served (despite it being called a cafe). It’s more of a cute environment to see owls. But if you want a coffee, there are plenty of real coffee shops right by the train station.