The animal cafés in Japan

Tokyo is not only the home for some of the best coffee shops around the world, but also a place to try some quite quirky café concepts people have invented. You can find cafés for animal lovers, people who like their manga and those who wish to be treated like royalties by a handsome butler or a cute maid. In this blog post I write a little about the animal cafés of Tokyo and in the next article I’ll cover my quite unforgettable experience in a butler café.

Cat, owl, dog, bunny and hedgehog cafés

Animal cafés are a surprisingly normal sight in Tokyo and also in some other bigger cities in Japan. If you want to go and see a furry animal friend, there are numerous cat, dog and bunny cafés to be found around the city. Maybe birds or hedgehogs are more of your thing? Yes, you can find a café specialized in allmost any different species of domesticated pet animals in the city of Tokyo.

It all sounds so cute and fun. That being said, these cafés are a little difficult subject for myself, though, because it has been difficult to find places, where I feel comfortable with the way the animals are treated. I don’t quite know, how I should feel about these places. Many cafés feel more like having animals there as a show case item, rather than giving a home for living beings. The animals seem to be in good health and they do look super cute, but I find it still quite hard to pick any recommendations for your tour lists. That is why I want to concentrate in this post more on what to pay attention to, when you select which café to go to. Make sure you check out before your visit if the café treats the animals properly – it might be easiest to do that by reading for example bunch of the TripAdvisor reviews or checking how the café advertises its services online or on the streets.

The Owl café in Onomichi had really nice, tranquil atmosphere amonst the greenery and it had only a couple of customer spaces, so it was very quiet there. The single owl living in this café did have a view outside and fresh air flowing in, but I am not quite sure, how wild animals such as owls like it inside houses. In this place it was forbidden to actually disturb or touch the bird, and all loud noises or taking photos of the owl from close distane was also not allowed.

How to pick a good animal café?

While most animal cafés definitely fall into atleast neutral zone, in some of the animal cafés the pets don’t seem to have enough space and their natural habits or need for some down time are not properly taken into account – or that is atleast how it seems. The places may be fully leagal, but it does not necessarily mean that the animals get to live stress-free lives in those places. The animals should be able to choose, if they want to sleep, eat or approach a human, and not the other way around. So, if an animal café promises you a guaranteed or paid acces to directly pet the animal or have the animal in your lap, I would be alarmed. Search for places that only let people to pet the animals when the animal itself approaches human or clearly is comfortable with the petting. Think about how your friends’ pets behave when you visit their home – for example, it may take hours before a cat gets out from under the couch when new people arrive to the house, and even if animal is very accustomed with people, it may still take time before it finds you worthy of a touch. It may be, that in some homes you never even see the animal, as it prefers to hide or sleep during your visit. This should be possible in a good animal café aswell. Be understanding for the café staff, if it happens to be the sleeping hour of the animals just when you happen to visit a café.

What do you think? Have you found problematic places? Or perhaps some gems, where you feel animals are taken good care of?


A restaurant pick for cat lovers:

Temari Katei Ryouri (てまり家庭料理)

One place which I found somewhat amusing for multiple reasons is this tiny place in Shimbashi that seems to be run by a older couple – and their cats. It is not really the kind of cat café one usually means by that term. Rather, it is a restaurant that just happens to be also home for dozen of cats. This restaurant, called Temari Katei Ryouri, feels like a Japanese home of the old days, as it is located in an older building and serves traditional home cooked food, as the name literally suggests. It is one of those restaurant from of the forgotten times, when cooking is done while chatting with clients and atmosphere makes it feel like a gathering of old neighbours. There’s clutter and stuff everywhere and old decorations hanging on the walls. This messy familiarity makes it feel homey in some weird way. (Note: if you like it tidy and spotless, this is maybe not a place for you.) If you have watched Netflix series ‘Midnight Diner: Tokyo Stories’, you might find this restaurant resembling some of the stories in that TV series. And if you can speak Japanese, you may hear some interesting chats taking place here.

Temari Katei Ryouri is a place, where cats run around, hop on and off the chairs, hide in cardboard boxes, sleep under the table or come purr at your feet – if they want to. Some customers and salary men visiting the place are clearly regulars, as the cats may end up sleeping on their laps or go and try to get their attention. There are so many cats that I could not really count them during my visit, but the owners know each cat by name, even if they look so similar to me. It may be, that the place has even a bit too many cats for one house, but atleast it feels this is the home of both owners and the cats, and the owners seem to genuinely love their cats. Anyway, if you’re up for a drink and some traditional home cooked meal while watching sleeping purring cats, you might enjoy this place’s weird, old time charm.

Have you found a lovely animal café in Japan that you feel earn to be recommended and shared?
Let us know your favourites in the comments!

And if you are looking for café recommendations for Tokyo, be sure to check out my book ‘A Café Lover’s Tokyo’. Available on Apple Books and for Kindle Fire or Kindle iOS & Android Apps on Amazon.

Liisa Stenberg
Liisa Stenberg is a Finnish writer and designer who has lived in Japan during her study years and travels back to her “other home country” almost yearly. She has published one guide book about living in Japan in Finnish (Vuosi Japanissa, published by Finn Lectura, 2011).

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