If you had told me that one day I would hold an owl on my arm, and pet and ruffle its neck feathers, I would have secretly thought you were perhaps in need of some therapy. And yet, there I was earlier this year, holding a variety of owls on my arm, petting their heads, ruffling the feathers on their necks, and absolutely loving every minute of the experience.
Animal cafes are BIG in Japan. Whether you want to interact with cats, dogs, rabbits, birds, goats, or heaven forbid, snakes, there’s a cafe where you can do that. Some are better than others – much better – where the animals are well-cared for versus just a commodity.
The cafe we visited only allows in a few people at a time, and reservations are required. On the day of our visit to the Fukurō-no-Sato (‘owl village’) Cafe we stopped by a little before noon, but the first available opening wasn’t until 4:00 p.m. that afternoon. At some of the more popular cat cafes there can be up to a two-day wait for an opening.
The Fukurō-no-Sato Owl Cafe in Harajuku is located on the fourth floor in a building just to the side of Takeshita-dori in Harajuku, and across from Harajuku station. We paid a fee (1500¥ per person, a little less than $45 for the three of us) when we made our reservation, and then reappeared at our appointed time and were served a cup of green tea in a charming owl cup along with some crackers (other beverages and snacks were available, but cost more). While we sipped and munched an employee came and spoke to us about the owls, the different types and their temperaments, how to handle them, which ones not to touch, and especially emphasized the importance of keeping the big owls away from the smallest ones because they could be seen as prey. We had been concerned about the overall treatment of the owls before we arrived, but it became apparent as we listened that the staff loved the birds and they were very well-cared for. Interaction with humans was as limited as possible, and the owls got ‘down time.’ The cafe is located very close to the Meiji-Jingu shrine, and apparently the owls are taken out several times a week to fly and hunt inside the grounds. We have learned since that other cafes do not treat their owls as well.
After the presentation, we sanitized our hands and were taken into the owl room where we spent around a half hour with the birds. It was honestly pretty darn thrilling! The owls ranged in size from over two feet tall (great horned owl) to tiny ones that were only around six inches tall (the little owls were not handled). What was very surprising was how light they all were, especially the big owls, but then again they would have to be light in order to fly.
Was it worth the expense? In my opinion, yes – it was an experience unlike any I’d ever had before and am unlikely to have again, and I learned quite a bit. Although I believe that the best place for owls is in the wild, I felt the owls were respected and well cared for.
Animal cafes have opened recently in the United States, but for the most part they remain a quintessential Japanese experience, and can be a fun and interesting addition to a Japan visit (although you will never find me in a snake cafe!). I do recommend though that research should be done before choosing a cafe, as they are not all equal.
11 thoughts on “Postcard From: The Fukurou-no-Sato Owl Cafe”
Wow! So impressive! I would love that.
It was an impressive experience – we’re all glad we decided to go. The girls all want to visit one of the cat cafes whenever they get a chance to visit Japan again, but I’d pick the owl cafe again.
Amazing! But honestly, the owls would frighten me. More power to you!
You would think it would be frightening, but it wasn’t. The owls were fascinating, especially the big ones, and the staff did a good job of preparing us to interact with them, and respect them.
I’m glad you had a good experience at the owl cafe. Great photos!
My husband and I visited an owl cafe called Akiba Fukurou in the Akihabara area of Tokyo. It was an amazing experience! Like Brett, Jim did not want to hold the owls, but eventually near the end he did allow himself to be photographed with one. (They gave us a nice laminated photo of us posing with our favorite owl as a souvenir.)
We had some internal debate beforehand about whether patronizing such places was ethical, but the staff seemed well-trained and the owls well cared for. I did think some of the other guests could have behaved better — several were pretty rude in their efforts to take selfies with as many owls as possible. Jim commented that he thought that the guests’ behavior would probably be much worse here in the U.S., though. Communication was a bit of an issue since the staff members didn’t seem to speak much, if any, English (despite the English section on their website), and my Japanese is minimal. They did have written material in English explaining the rules and such. We chose that particular owl cafe because it had online reservations — essential since we had only a day-and-a-half in Tokyo. Glad we went.
The cafe you visited sounds like another good one – we heard though of one cafe where the owls were kept in a room where a big-screen TV showed a film of owls all day long, with the sound turned up for visitors. Yikes! We also heard a few not so savory tales about some cat cafes, where the animals were not treated well.
The staff we worked with the day we visited spoke English well, and were able to explain a lot. No more than eight guests were allowed in at one time.
It was a fantastic experience.
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What an interesting experience! I’m so glad you found a place where they treat the owls well. Do they rescue them?
We’re not sure how they obtained the owls – some of them were not native to Japan. But, we did feel the owls were treated well – we especially liked finding out that they take them out to the park a few times a week, which is more than most zoos do.
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Very interesting! I’ve never heard of this, but you do have some great adventures. Thanks for sharing them!
I just got back from Costa Rica a few days ago. When we were there, we visited an animal rescue centre. We had different birds and butterflies on our arms and hands. My favourite was the toucan. It was a thrilling experience! I posted some pictures on my blog if you’d like to see them.
Pura vida! Lovely pictures – the flowers were gorgeous! It is thrilling to be able to get so close to these birds (even though I’d prefer them to stay in the wild).
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