Would you hang out with cats, rabbits or owls?
In the U.S., hanging out in a cafe with animals is an exotic concept. People can't get enough of it. A cat cafe in New York last year had lines down the block. 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. 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. There was a demonstration before each guest was allowed to hold a bird.
The owls come in various sizes and species. Some are tiny while some are quite large. There was even 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 on your arm. The owls seem calm despite the fact that the small room is crowded.
The staff will place the owl on your shoulder or head, if you like. Staff can also help if your owl starts to flap. Raising your hand in the air usually settles them down. But apparently I was holding my arm wrong. A worker came and 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. 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. But a small drink is included. The drink arrives covered in plastic wrap, decorated with a magic marker illustration of an owl. 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?