Would you hang out with cats, rabbits  or owls? An owl is perched on the arm of a visitor at Fukuro no Mise, which means Shop of Owls, in Tokyo (AP photos)
Would you hang out with cats, rabbits or owls?
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In the U.S., hanging out in a cafe with animals is such an exotic concept that people can't get enough of it. A cat cafe in New York last year had lines down the bloc and online reservations for another Manhattan cat cafe are almost fully booked more than two months in advance.

But in Japan, cat cafes are just the start. You can hang out in rabbit cafes or have coffee in Tokyo with two goats. And you're not limited to domestic animals. You can also spend an hour at a cafe holding a great horned owl.

Judging by how complicated it was to get a reservation at Tokyo's Fukuro no Mise ("Shop of Owls"), the owl cafes are just as much of a hoot there as cat cafes are here.

To get a spot, visitors are supposed to line up an hour before Fukuro no Mise opens. But when I showed up an hour early, I was lucky to get the last seat for a session two hours later. There are no refunds on the 2000 yen ($17) fee so if you're late, you lose your slot.

Inside, I was given a list of detailed English instructions. For example, only touch the owls on the head or back. And while the owls are very tame, "they can't be potty trained like dogs. So please be generous when they potty on you!"

The woman in charge also gave a long talk and demonstration in Japanese before allowing each guest to hold a bird.

The owls come in various sizes and species, from tiny to quite large, including a great horned owl with large sharp claws and an impressive beak. Each bird has a tether around one foot, which you hold in your hand as it perches perch on your arm. Sleek and clear-eyed, the owls seem calm despite the fact that the small room is crowded.

The attentive staff will place the owl on your shoulder or head, if you like and the staff can also help if your owl starts to flap. Raising your hand in the air usually settles them down. Apparently I was holding my arm wrong, so a worker repositioned it. If you've had enough and want to just watch everyone else's owls, they'll relieve you of the bird.

Photography is forbidden in some of the oddest places in Japan, but this isn't one of them. No flash is allowed (and no video) but posting a shot of yourself on social media holding an owl is clearly a goal for many visitors.

Unlike some other animal cafes in Japan, this place is only nominally a cafe. There's no food and only a small drink is included. The drink arrives covered in plastic wrap, decorated with a magic marker illustration of an owl. But no one pays attention to their beverage until the final activity, which involves distributing souvenirs.

Each item is held up and guests raise their hand if they want it. If too many people raise hands, winners are chosen by playing rock-paper-scissors, which seems to be the same in Japan as it is in the U.S. Souvenirs included a photo book, cell phone charms, chopsticks and a cloth decorated with owls.

Critical thinking challenge: If these are cafes, why is so little emphasis placed on their food and drink?

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COMMENTS (37)
  • yasemine-war
    2/06/2015 - 01:56 p.m.

    I think the idea of having a caf with owls is the coolest thing ever! Owls are my favorite animal so having a caf that is designated to them is amazing!! This is definitely something that has been added to my bucket list

  • janelleh-DiB
    2/06/2015 - 02:03 p.m.

    cats to me are gross and i would rather hang with a bunny because its nice and furry and cute and not a owl because in ecuador where im from its badluck

  • TaylorSeifert-Ste
    2/07/2015 - 07:04 p.m.

    I don't really see how people call this a cafe when it's basically a place to meet some animal that you are interested in. It's neat to think about, but I would rather go to a zoo and see all different types of animals rather than waiting in a line for hours just to hold an owl.

  • alexisb-Koc
    2/08/2015 - 08:39 p.m.

    I personally think this is awesome. I love animals, and I even have a bunny of my own. I think people should be more accepting of animals like this. I would also love to try and make an appointment to go there one day. It's simply fascinating. I hope America will open one of these one day, it's great to have animals taken care of instead of out there as predators or shelterless.

  • havenr-Koc
    2/08/2015 - 09:45 p.m.

    It's very interesting so have a cafe full of exotic animals to be able to hold and pet and to have them keep you company. I think it'd be scary to be in company of an owl, their stares are almost unbearable.

  • Ashleypatt
    2/09/2015 - 01:33 p.m.

    I would enjoy hanging out with cats because they are loving animals and the cutest thing ever! They can feel what your feeling and love you. Also when your upset or hurt they know the loving touch to put on you. Cats are adorable and would make anyone happy.

  • MadisonSch
    2/09/2015 - 01:37 p.m.

    I would choose a cat to hang out with. Owls do not really do anything but stare at you with its big eyes. Cats do not do much. but they do not just stare at you.

  • EmmaBender
    2/09/2015 - 01:38 p.m.

    I think that this is something that would be really cool to do. I'd rather hang out with and owl at a cafe though because it's really out of the usual compared to having a cat or dog.

  • namelt-Che
    2/09/2015 - 01:44 p.m.

    I wouldn't because they could have some kind of disease and I would stay back just for safety. They probably haven't took any shots and stuff. But if the animals have taken their shots and all of that kind of stuff, I would hang out with them.

  • CharismaM
    2/09/2015 - 01:45 p.m.

    I actually wouldn't mind spending the afternoon with owls. I like animals, so spending time in a cafe full of them seems like a fun idea to me.

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