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Japanese Encyclopedia: Animal Cafe

Japanese Encyclopedia: Animal Cafe

2016.08.09

Animal cafes are cafes where you can meet and interact with a variety of different animals, such as cats, dogs, birds, owls, goats and more!

Translated by Hilary Keyes

Written by ニコ

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If you're feeling like you need to relax, then there are the perfect cafes waiting for you in Japan: animal cafes. Today let's take a look at some of the popular types of animal cafes found throughout Japan.

But, just what are animal cafes? In the simplest terms, animal cafes are places where you can enjoy the food and drinks of a cafe alongside the company of animals. Of these cafes, the fastest to grow famous in Japan were the cat cafes. These cafes feature everything from cute cats and other animals to unusual creatures. Now we will introduce a few of the different types of animal cafes.

What's the Definition of an Animal Cafe?

The term 'animal cafe' has two typical definitions in Japan. One meaning refers to places where pet owners and their animals (usually dogs) interact, similar to a dog park or other pet-friendly establishment.

The second definition refers to a cafe that has its own resident animals that the customers may interact with, which is the type of cafe that we are referring to in this article. While these cafes do serve tea, coffee and light snacks, the main reason for visiting one is to interact with animals much as you would at a petting zoo overseas.

What Started the Animal Cafe Boom?

The first popular animal cafes were cat cafes. But they didn't originate in Japan. The birthplace of the animal cafe was Taiwan; in 1998 a coffee shop called Mao Hoa Yuen (猫花園, the characters meaning "Cat Flower Garden") is where the modern cat cafe has its roots.

Mao Hoa Yuen was so popular with Japanese tourists to Taiwan that eventually the idea spread to Japan, which ultimately caused the cat and animal cafe boom in Japan. This Taiwanese invention lead to the opening of Neko no Jikan in Kita ward of Osaka in 2004, a cafe that is still popular to this day with domestic and international visitors.

What Kinds of Cafes are there?

Cat cafes started it all, but what other sorts of animal cafes are there now?

It goes without saying that cafes featuring usual pets such as cats and dogs are very popular, but there are also rabbit, bird and even reptile cafes - cafes to suit a wide range of unique needs. Of these cafes, the most popular type at the moment are owl cafes.

Typically, it is difficult to encounter owls outside seeing them from a distance at zoos. One reason for the popularity of these owl cafes is that, as the owls are used to humans, you can not only pet their soft feathers but also take a photo with one sitting on your shoulder or even perched on your head. Fukurō Sabō, a popular owl cafe in Kokubunji, Tokyo, has an online reservation system which is a convenient way to make sure that you can see the owls when you visit.

Other popular cafes with different animals include Cafe Midori no Hoshi in Narashino city, Chibaprefecture, where you can appreciate goldfish and tropical fish, or the Sakuragaoka Cafe in Shibuya, which is home to some hospitable goats.

Important Points about Animal Cafes

Once you have chosen the animal cafe that you'd most like to visit, there are of course some important things to keep in mind before having fun. As there are multiple different kinds of cafes with varying numbers of animals in residence, it is vital to keep in mind that each cafe has its own unique set of rules and regulations. First and foremost of these is that, these animals are living creatures meant to help people relax, so mistreating or being rough with them in any form is not tolerated in the slightest. For cafes that allow customers to take photos with the animals, flash photography is expressly forbidden. Before visiting any animal cafe it is a good idea to visit their website and check to see what their rules are to ensure that you and the animals will enjoy your visit.

These are the basic guidelines and key points of Japan's most popular cafes, the animal cafes. Let's go out and see some animals!

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