Owl cafes in Japan are the latest hoot!

What to do when cat, reptile and goat cafés bore you? Go to an owl café, of course!

It all began with cats. After that came the snakes, lizards, goats, penguins, rabbits and squirrels. Now, the Japanese, who indisputably lead the world in innovating novelty culture, have managed to score yet another kawaii breakthrough: owl cafés. Yes, owls!

According to The Japan Times, the trend started in 2012, when one enterprising multi-animal café began featuring owls as part of its menagerie. Then, two specialised fukurou cafés (fukurou being the Japanese word for "owl") opened for business in Tokyo and that set off a buzz.

As various hip blogs and websites highlighted the trend over the past two years, similar cafés began to pop up in other cities in Japan, including Osaka and Kobe – no doubt delighting local hipsters who have grown tired of the usual cat café. 

One of the most popular is Fukurou no Mise (Owl Café), located near Tsukishima station in Tokyo. Though it only opens for three to four hours each day from Wednesday to Sunday, and has a "no reservations" policy, Fukuro no Mise has been entertaining long queues of visitors eager to register for a precious slot to bond with the birds.

Hoot! You are too cute! At Fukurou no Mise, patrons can bond with the cafe's resident owls (above). But you'll have to wait in line first (below). 

Once inside the café, which is kept dark to protect the eyes of the owls, patrons are only allowed to stay for an hour and required to buy at least one of the café’s expensive drinks – a cup of coffee starts at ¥1,000 (RM31). Patrons are also instructed, in Japanese, on how to properly handle the birds.

For patrons, such rules and restrictions are a small price to pay, and one can see why. With their amusingly curious over-sized eyes, beautiful plumage and rotund body shape, not to mention their near-universal mystique (and haughty attitude), the owls are adorable. As one blogger aptly puts it: "They're like cats, but with wings." 

Store co-owner Shin Ishikawa says visitors love the fact that they get to interact with such iconic animals. “In a sense, owls are this sort of extraordinary animal that exists in the ordinary world,” he says.

Anywhere from 20 to 30 owls of different species are at the cafe at any given point for visitors to touch, pet and even put on their heads. But be careful not to make sudden movements or use flash photography – that freaks out the usually calm birds of prey.

The owners take their feathered family home every night because they’re worried about earthquakes and the owls’ nocturnal hooting annoying the neighbours. Ultimately, when a single owl can cost up to ¥100,000 (RM3,100), the whole flock is not something you’d want to leave in the shop.

Owl treat: Two bird-inspired desserts one can find at Tori no Iru Cafe.  

If one owl café is not enough to satisfy your owl cravings, Tori no Iru Café (Tokyo Bird Café), located near Kiba station in Tokyo, features owls and other avian friends including parrots and falcons. It also sells bird-inspired desserts. Fukurou Sabou (Owl Teahouse), located near Kokubunji station in Tokyo, has a family of barn owls that are too cute. Meanwhile, in Osaka, owl junkies can get their fix at Owl Family and Lucky Owl. There’s also BiBi & George Kobe Fukurou Café in Kobe. 

Just don’t expect free WiFi. 

Sources: Reuters, The Japan Times, Wander Tokyo, Kotaku.

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Lifestyle , Features , Animal , Japan , quirky , owl , owls , owl cafe , Tokyo , Osaka , Kobe , Fukurou no Mise , trend , fad ,


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