Though the phenomenon of animal cafes began in Taiwan, since 2004 they have been a booming industry in Japan, and there are places all through the country at which you can sit and pet animals whilst enjoying a range of hot or cold drinks.
It’s no surprise that the popularity of animal cafes have grown exponentially in Japan. With so much of the urban population living in small, rented apartments in which the keeping of pets is generally prohibited, animal lovers are forced to take this unusual step to get closer to their furry friends. Add this to the ‘kawaii culture’ and the propensity towards Instagram as a way of documenting your life for the Japanese youth, then you have got a recipe for a booming – not to mention quintessentially Japanese – industry.
There are a number of animal cafes around Nagoya, ranging from the quite normal to the downright bizarre. Below is a small selection. You can find more at the ever excellent kikuko-nagoya.com
Neko cafes are where the whole craze began, and its no surprise? Cats are cute, soft, and if there’s a sound more soothing than a purring cat, I’ve never heard it.
As Nagoya is known to be a bit of a mecca for cat cafes, there are quite a few around town, but the one that gets all the buzz is Cat Cafe Mocha. For many of Japan’s animal cafes interior design isn’t generally much of a consideration, but Cat Cafe MOCHA has got style to spare, and is more elegant than most regular cafes. As a result, their website encourages customers to not only enjoy spending time with the animals, but suggests that it is a good place to come and relax, study or work.
Perhaps over all other animals, Japan loves its dogs the most, and again there are a number of dog cafes around. Due to the general size of homes and the inherent kawaiiness, dogs in Japan tend to be of the small, energetic (sometimes yappy) kind.
This is very much true of the dogs at Momo Cafe, where the little things run around excitedly. Their website explains that it is the perfect place for those thinking of taking on a dog, but are unsure as to whether they would enjoy it – very much a ‘try before you buy’ situation. As well as running a cafe, Momo provide trimming services for your pets, and there are also yoga classes.
Otters may strike you as an odd animal to want to play with, but as soon as you meet Genki, a female otter who loves nothing more than to hang out in her enclosure with her feline friends. But even if they aren’t your thing, there are loads of animals, from squirrel monkeys to Patagonian maras, from owls to prairie dogs and even a boar.
If Kawauso Friends looks more like a zoo than a pet cafe, that’s because many of the animals have been rescued from zoos. Owner, Yoshihara-san, is very much into animal rights and conservation, and adopts animals that have been abandoned. Many of the animals co-habit with each other in order to enhance their development and enable them to live more relaxed and enjoyable lives.
While recent years have seen a number of stricter laws implemented surrounding the treatment of animals in pet cafes, it is the bird cafes that face the greatest ire from animal rights activists, due to the lack of space to fly.
If you were always insanely jealous of Harry Potter for his feathered friend you should check out Fukuro no iru mori Cafe. You can spend an hour wandering around looking at and petting a variety of owls, and at the end of your time (when it comes to pay the 1,300 JPY bill) you can pose with either a large owl on your gloved hand, or a smaller one on your head or shoulder. I’d go for the latter, like a nocturnal pirate.
Where: 3 Chome-3-25-41 Sakae, Naka-ku (map)
Like otters, hedgehogs, too, seem like an unusual choice for people to want to play with, but they are extremely popular in Japan right now, which is why you might see a number of cafes devoted to them springing up.
Cafe Harrywood (named because hedgehog in Japanese is ‘harinezumi’) is one such place, and you will probably find it filled with young women much of the time, as this is perhaps the most ‘instagramable’ of cafes. But don’t let that dissuade you as these african pygmy hedgehogs are insanely cute, particularly when they sit on your hand eating snacks or falling asleep.