If you thought cafes are only for drinking coffee, here is something to get you thinking…
I’ve always thought that if there is any place where weird inventions come to life in this world, it most certainly is Japan.
As I mentioned in my previous article, marketers in Japan seem to never run out of new ideas, because, after all, anything can become a product, and earn you money. I mean, literally anything. Like an owl, a goat or a dead medieval warlord.
Here is one more of my top 5’s, this time featuring the quirkiest cafes in Japan. If you thought all it can offer is neko cafes and maid cafes, take a look below.
The owl cafes started to gain popularity a bit over 2 years ago. In the beginning, everyone thought it was a strange idea to gather owls, after all wild birds, in a confined space and treat them as pets. However, as wild and secluded as they seem, owls are also extremely smart, tamable and easy to train.
With a few trainings the owls can sit quietly while visitors come over to pet them. Also, they seem to have overcome the fact that they are mainly nocturne animals, and are feeling quite well in the morning light.
There are rules, of course. You’re not allowed to hold the baby owls, but they allow the adult ones to perch on your arm or shoulder. Also, you can’t leave with the owl you’ve been petting. Technically they cost somewhere around 100,000-120,000 yen (over 1000 USD) and the owner of the cafe has to agree to sell the owl.
For the time being you can enjoy the calmness of the space in dim lights surrounded by these amazing creatures, for only about 1000 yen/hour.
You may be thinking: who would even wanna go there? Well, the Japanese entrepreneurship has no boundaries and reptile cafes are one of its amazing products.
The main characters are lizards, snakes, turtles and frogs and they are more than friendly. Most reptile cafes swarm with guests at most hours. I mean, think how cute it is to take your partner to a reptile cafe for a date. That is, of course, if they don’t scare too easily. But fear not, the pet reptiles are as inoffensive as any other animal in this kind of establishment.
I quite liked the one in Osaka (Hachurui Cafe Again), they served food from Okinawa and the prices were quite affordable. Also, they are open to negotiation if you intend to buy let’s say your favorite lizard or turtle as a pet.
If reptiles are your thing, here are a couple of places where you can find them.
If we are still in the animal zone, yes, there is a cafe in Tokyo where you can literally spend some bonding time with… a goat! (There used to be 2 of them in 2014).
It’s called Sakuragaoka Cafe and you can find it in the heart of Shibuya just 4-5 minutes away from the station.
This cozy cafe opened in 2009 and it also has a cute terrace where you can enjoy your morning coffee or your lunch.
Oh, and of course, your time with the goats.
According to the owner, Shibuya needed a place where people could find an oasis of peace in the middle of the business hustle and bustle. This is how he came up with the idea of placing 2 goats outside the cafe, near the terrace. The people would stop by, greet them and without knowing, they’d find themselves smiling at the cute animals in front of them.
Animal therapy is one of the best stress relievers so why not try it? By the way, the current Sakuragaoka cafe goat is very cheerful and very friendly to people.
And we are done with animal cafes. This one literally translates as “Buddhist monk bar” and it sure has that special vibe that a Buddhist bar would have.
Now don’t get me wrong, and if you are a westerner reading this, forget about religion when thinking about the Bozu bars (Buddhism is after all, just a set of moral rules). The atmosphere is cozy and fun. It seems like you’re in a regular pub pub, and there’s this funny guy who isn’t even a stand-up comedian although he’s acting like one, livening up conversations. I am, of course, talking about the Buddhist priest entertaining guests. They are working as staff and they sure have that rhetorical nerve to entertain any kind of conversation with a sense of humor and some life advice here and there.
I say “they” because there are around 10 (at least in Osaka) obousans working in shifts. If you want to meet them, they arrive after 20:00. That’s when the show starts as you would say.
The alcohol/soft drinks are cheap(from 400 yen/ beer) but there is a table fee to be paid (1000 yen).
If you want to attend on the special nights when you can listen to the priest explaining the hannyakyou or rengekyou sutras you can do so by paying 2000 yen. The atmosphere is great and at the end of the night you feel like you actually had a good time drinking with friends while also learning something new.
Where do you find them?
Look for “Vows bar”, that’s the official name. Nice pun, you’d say! Here are a couple of such places
Or the Nobunaga bar as I call it.
Anyone interested in Japanese history knows who Oda Nobunaga is. The sengokujidai warlord is even famous in Europe thanks to some history dramas extremely popular among all types of people. There are hundreds of books and mangas written about him. So why not dedicate a bar to his memory, considering the rekishi moe boom, especially among young women.
That’s what the producers of a Gekkan comic, “Ikusa no ko- Oda Saburou Nobunaga den” came up with in 2013 and the cafe opened soon after.
Built on the grounds where the Honnouji temple used to be, the cafe has 3 floors: ground 0 is a souvenir shop with original Nobunaga goods, 1st floor is the restaurant, 2nd floor is the show stage where you can also eat and 3rd floor holds the replica of the Azuchi castle tower. At the basement you can also find replicas of Azuchi pottery.
If you’re a fan of Japanese history and want to enjoy the medieval Japan atmosphere while drinking a cup of sake and chatting with your hakama dressed waiter, this is the place to go.
There are many more others of course. I didn’t include the very popular Maid Cafes (or Butler cafes for that matter), Neko Cafes, Ofuro Cafes, you name it.
Means of entertainment in Japan are so diverse and come in so many unexpected shapes and forms that you feel compelled to try and see them all.
Well, it’s also a matter of budget, but these cafes are most certainly worth your money (and your time)!
・97 Things to Do in Osaka, the Japanese City of Street Food, Culture, and Comedy, in 2018
・100 Things to Do in Shibuya, Tokyo’s Fashionable Metropolis, in 2018
・Weirdest Japanese cafes that will surely amuse you, Tokyo