There are a few things that are reminiscent of a trip to Japan. Endless bowls of ramen, piles upon piles of gyoza, shrines upon shrines, chasing the elusive perfect latte with accompanying extravagant latte art and the ever popular cat café. So, I’ve visited my fair share of cat cafes. Mostly, they have an excessive number of disinterested felines that occasionally look at you disdainfully. But the most anticipated animal experience that in my recent Winter trip to Japan would be this arranged visit to an Owl Café – namely Akiba Fukurou.
There are many reasons why I adore owls – their huge luminous eyes balls, their seemingly overly prehensile necks, hunter’s speed and crazy sharp claws that could render a man’s guts into external ornaments. Also, little owls are super cute. I vividly remember my owl phase in my younger years – I say this like this was a long time ago. In reality this phase only passed two years prior. Owls bedecked everything I owned. I still have a few mementos of my owlish-fetish – including a bemused ceramic owl vase that periodically judges me from my living room bookshelf. My owl-love aside, I decided that some time with some owls was a good way to kill off an hour in one of the world’s busiest cities.
Tucked into an alley behind the neon lit streets of Akihabara, this small room houses a number of different owls. The deal is that you make a time-slot booking online through Akiba Fukurou’s website a few days prior to your intended visit, confirm all your details and number of people visiting with the very friendly staff via email and then turn up a few minutes ahead of time so that the staff can explain all the rules to you – some obvious ones include no flash photography, no squeezing of the birds and no sudden movements. Nobody wants to end up as owl food. Oh, and because these ARE living animals – they will defecate. Sometimes on you. Or your pants. Or down your arm. Or on your head. So keep that in mind.
With around twenty different owls scattered about the softly lit and comfortably furnished room, you can choose to pick one up. Each person is allowed to hold two owls each during the allotted time period. It has to be noted that at any given time there may be several birds that are “resting” – so you can’t pick them up or pat them. In any case, you can spend the rest of the time admiring and gently patting these birds of prey – some of which are adorably cute and sweet looking and others that maintain a cruel eye-ball wateringly-evil panache. I of course stuck to the smaller birds – keeping my fingers/face clearly away from the much creepier birds of prey – I mean, I love owls, but also, I love my eyeballs.
The friendly staff, clad in suspenders and bow ties, are every ready to take care of your every need – even taking a photo of you and your chosen bird to carry – of which they turn into an adorable post-card-like memento and give to you at the end of your experience. They also make every effort to ensure that you are kept clean of owl poop and feel comfortable in the surrounds. Also, they clearly love the owls that they work with. Some people may cry-out arguments towards animal cruelty, but after viewing the sheer respect that the handlers show to their birdy peers, one can’t help but feel that these wonderful and majestic animals are kept in the best care with people that genuinely adore them.
A few tips if you plan to visit – you MUST book beforehand through their website – they reply fast and are super friendly, but you have to confirm you booking the day before was well, so please ensure that you have some sort of access to internet while you’re in Japan! It’s 1500 yen per person and is cash only – so remember to have the right amount of money on you upon entering. Also, give yourself plenty of time to find it! We walked past the right alleyway several times over! Finally, remember to enjoy it – the hour passes way too quickly and in a blink of an owlish eye, you’ll be back in the neon glaze of Akihabara’s lights.
PS. If you manage to get the opportunity to meet Sweet Potato, tell the little owl cutie, I said “Hi!”.
GET THERE: Reservation required. Directions can be found here.
WEBSITE: akiba2960.com EMAIL: firstname.lastname@example.org
HOURS: Hours span from 11:00 to 19:00 depending on available booking time-slots.
FEE: ¥1,500 per person, cash only.