the Hapineko (Happy Cat) cafe in Tokyo's Shibuya
district, customers pay about $13 an hour to hang
out with cats. The place is kept spotless and
odor-free by several attendants.
— Pity the poor office worker. It’s midafternoon,
and taking a break probably means sneaking off to the
vending machine for a soda, or at best slipping out for
coffee. But what about those who crave cuddle time with
a cat? Or maybe a snuggle session with a bunny? A
cappuccino in the company of an owl might be a hoot. Or
perhaps a green tea alongside a goat....
Tokyo, such fauna fantasies are easily fulfilled. The
city has dozens of animal cafes, harboring species
varying from falcons to iguanas, each aiming to inject a
bit of Mother Nature into one of the world’s biggest
and concepts vary, but the basic idea is to soothe
stressed-out urbanites by offering quality time with
four-legged (or two-winged) friends. Some cafes charge
by the hour, whereas others require no more than a
minimal purchase of food or beverage. As long as
proprietors follow food safety regulations and obtain
the proper permits, there’s no legal barrier to
putting pets on such premises.
boss decided we needed to have a healing atmosphere
here; this is a business district, many people are so
busy, but they feel free when looking at animals,"
said Azusa Kawakami, who works at the Sakuragaoka Cafe
in the bustling Shibuya neighborhood, a cacophonous
commercial center with skyscrapers blanketed in neon and
massive, noisy video screens.
Cafe features two female goats in a pen out front: a
brown one named Chocolate and a white one, Sakura, or
Cherry Blossom. Customers sit on the adjoining terrace
and feed hay to the ruminants while munching on their
own snacks. On Mondays and Fridays, the miniature goats
can be walked at no extra charge.
far, no one in the neighborhood has complained,"
few blocks away, on the third floor of a building that
also houses bars and a massage parlor, the Happy Cat (Hapineko)
cafe offers face time with 15 felines. An hour of
lounging with the free-roaming animals costs about $13
and includes coffee or tea. The slightly ominous
information sheet at the check-in counter advises that
first-aid supplies are available on-site, but that the
operators are not liable "for any hospital
a recent Monday evening, six customers (five of them
female) had washed their hands, changed into the
requisite slippers and were cooing over the kitties. Not
unexpectedly, the living-room-like space was done up
with cat-themed decor: pillows and posters, even a
cat-shaped toilet brush in the bathroom. (Hello Kitty,
though, was shockingly underrepresented.)
giant lint rollers were stationed at the entrance, and
two matronly attendants, one wearing cat socks, ensured
that the sofas and other surfaces remained fur-free.
Litter boxes were sequestered in a separate room, and
several air filters kept odors entirely at bay. It was
enough to make one think, for a moment, that harboring
more than a dozen felines in about 500 square feet was a
catfights broke out, and the space was surprisingly
quite bizarre; disturbingly quiet but relaxing,"
remarked Lauren Sparks, a tourist from Northampton,
England. "It’s nice to escape the hustle and
bustle of the city here. Some of the cats could be a bit
friendlier, but I would recommend it."
animal cafe trend began more than six years ago,
primarily with cat cafes, but has since spread its
wings. There’s the Falconer’s Cafe, home to falcons,
hawks and owls, and the Kotori Cafe, which features
parrots, parakeets, sparrows and cockatoos. Another
outfit featuring bunnies at two branches is called
Ra.a.g.f., which stands, inexplicably, for "Rabbit
and Grow Fat."
lacking are canine cafes. But the city of Yokohama has
the Subtropical Teahouse Reptile Cafe, where giant
tortoises cavort in a play area, and snakes, lizards and
amphibians are on display.
the Ra.a.g.f. branch in Harajuku, $6 covers a beverage
and 30 minutes with Flopsy, Mopsy and Cotton-tail; for
$1.30, you can buy a small bowl of carrots, apples and
greens to feed them. In all, the cafe has about a dozen
bunnies to pet, though only one is allowed out of the
cages at a time.
they fight or try to mate," explained one clerk.
Ra.a.g.f., which also offers animals for sale (the going
rate seemed to be about $220 per rabbit), Cafe Baron in
the Koenji neighborhood does not make its owls or
lizards available for purchase. Touching them is
discouraged as well. But just sipping coffee and
marveling at the magnificent birds — two great gray
owls named John and Jack, a Ural owl, Charlie, and a
barn owl, Baron — apparently proves delightful enough
for most customers.
Happy Cat, Cafe Baron had a hushed, almost
sanctuary-like ethos, with the birds at rest on perches
or the backs of chairs. On one table, a small photo
album featured snapshots of Baron as an owlet —
napping in a box, being bathed and playing under a
white-bearded cafe owner declined to provide his name
but was more than happy to talk about the owls at great
length (three came from England, and he has 11 others at
home). "Once you train them, they’re just like
dogs," he said; the shop, in its three years,
"has never had an accident."
ask me, why do you have owls?" he said, as one of
the majestic great grays perched on his shoulder, its
head swiveling to and fro. "I say, ‘Why do you
have dogs or cats?’ It’s the same thing. They’re
just wonderful animals."