Thursday, October 17, 2019

Adventure 33/50 : Otter Cafe!

Look, I like hedgehogs. They're cute in seemingly every way. I had never seen one in person until one day Wil and I were walking along a country lane in the UK and one was "sleeping" next to the road. With his intestines out. Poor fella.

Japan started the craze of "cat cafes" -- places where apartment-bound Tokyoites could gather for a while to drink tea and hang out with cats. The phenomenon has spread around the world -- we even saw one on Beijing last year. Some cities in the US use the cat cafes as a way to promote cat adoptions -- or at least a way to raise money for shelters. I'm all for it.

In Tokyo cat cafes have become passé. Hedgehog cafes have replaced them ... possibly because hedgehogs are a more "possible" pet? There are competing chains of cafes in Tokyo, including Chiku Chiku, who place their hedgehogs in "dollhouse settings":

And Harry Hedgehog Cafes, of which there are many, such as this location in Roppongi...

and this location in Harajuku...

But then we read that *this* location in Harajuku... HAS OTTERS.


Otters are my favorite animals. Out of all the animals in the world.

Full disclosure -- I feel this is problematic. Animals kept strictly for human entertainment. Are they treated well? Is this horrible?

But... still... otters.

So we went. First and foremost, the staff was very engaged and seemed to deeply care for their animals. It was clear that the welfare of their animals was higher priority than customer experience, so I felt less anxious. Oh, and I BOUGHT TREATS TO FEED THE CRITTERS!!!

In addition to the 30 minute session fee (extendable in 30-minute increments), I also bought a little platter of treats for the different animals. There were otter treats, hedgehog treats, and treats for rabbits or chinchillas. I bought them all.

Of course, first stop was the otter enclosure outside on the terrace.


I would hold a little treat on the tip of my fingers, and he would reach out and grab it off my hand and pull it in, and then -- audibly -- make a NOM NOM NOM sound. Though it might have been difficult to hear over the sound of my SQUEALING.

We watched them play for a while, then went in to see the chinchillas. No photographs of this exist because the "chill chinchilla" was pretty antsy about hanging with us, and kept leaping out of the basket we were holding on our laps. The employee would pick up the chinchilla, hold her, soothe her, stroke her, and gently place her back in the basket. And the chinchilla would LEAP TO FREEDOM and try to hide behind us. In the end, we just enjoyed watching the employee hold her, and gave the anxious little fluffball tentative pets.

Then we moved on to HEDGEHOGS. All of them were in little sleep balls the entire time. Which is pretty darn cute, if not particularly interactive.

You can see the had to wear gloves so I still don't really know what they feel like. We fed them dried mealworms using tweezers, and our hedgehogs would uncurl a bit, eat a mealworm, and ball back up. Still, pretty sweet.

Can't see us.

Nope, not us either.

We were then told we could visit the rabbit, a huge Dutch Giant. He was pretty mellow, shuffling around in his enclosure. Wil sad down near him and the rabbit flopped over. Note how big his feet are. Wil AND the rabbit.

We were getting ready to go when an employee said, "They're about to feed the otters." Oh! So we went outside to watch. Talk about excitement!

He would hold up a bit of fish, toss it to one of them, and that otter would scarf it down. When not eating, the otters let out a high-pitched whine -- EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE.

One guy in particular -- quite possibly the one I fed earlier --would whine and whine until he got a fish, and then make a NOM NOM NOM NOM sound, turning back into an EEEEEEEEEEE until he got the next bit.

We remembered, on our way out, that we could select a drink from one of the drink machines on the terrace. See, it's not *really* a cafe, but a drink is included in your visit. We were just too busy with the beasties!

There are other, maybe less appealing "animal cafes". We saw one that advertised a capybara. Now, who doesn't want to see the World's Largest Rodent™ in action... but that seemed to go too far.

I do still feel ... weird ... about having gone. I do think the animals were treated well in this location, but I wonder if there is any regulation / humane society oversight into these places. I hope so. 


  1. You guys really work on getting everything possible out of your trips! Who knew there was such a thing as an animal cafe? The closest thing ai ever heard of was community members bringing puppies and dogs to St Olaf College's student union during finals week. Some college students would just lay on the floor and let the puppies "attack" while others would sit in an armchair with a pup and they would both fall asleep! We could see it all on the "hi mom" camera!

    1. I love the idea of puppies visiting students during finals week! (I also love the idea of a "hi mom" camera!!!) I love planning vacations almost as much as I love taking them, so I spend a lot of time beforehand researching things do to. And when I heard about the otter cafe, we'll...