Oh oh, Halloween is here, so it's time for our annual cafe black-cat special. They've always brought us good luck, so we thought it would be nice to share our favorite black cats from cat cafes around Japan. Don't be scared, they're all friendly, especially if you've got cat treats to dispense.

Oh, and while you're here, check out our review and photos from Nekobiyaka, the world's only all black-cat cat cafe, located in Himeji, Japan. [Continue]

Open since 2009, when the first wave of cat cafes swept Japan, this popular spot has accumulated a whopping 35 resident cats, along with a devoted cadre of regular customers who seem to know them by name. We arrived just before 5pm on a weekday and encountered a maelstrom of frenetic activity in the playroom - it turns out that everyone here is very aware of approaching dinnertime, so this is a good time to see lots of wide-awake cats.

Things settled down soon after dinner, with some cats looking for napping spots while others chased each other around the playroom or hung out with visitors.... [Continue]

Open since April 2016, this multi-species animal cafe specializes in owls but offers a number of other friendly small animals to interact with. When we visited there were two rabbits, five hedgehogs, one baby duck, one grown duck and several parrots in addition to more than a dozen owls of all sizes. The setup is very relaxed - there's no need to take your shoes off and you can help yourself to coffee and soft drinks for no extra charge. When we visited there was no time limit, although this may depend on the day.

The staff are friendly and proactive, introducing visitors to the animals under their care and explaining how to handle and pet them. The hedgehogs were cute but only minimally interactive, so we were happy to have them as a side attraction, while the talkative green-thighed parrot was quite entertaining. The older duck faithfully followed the staff members around the room, and added a comical touch to the general atmosphere.

If you happen to be around during "flight time" you can watch as the staff try to coax one of the barn owls to fly the length of the room to grab a bit of meat, although things don't always go exactly as planned. As with other owl cafes, you can pet the on-duty owls gently on their heads and shoulders, and pose for photos with the smaller owls. [Continue]

Located in the hot-springs resort area of Nasu in Tochigi Prefecture, this well-run animal park is a fun place to spend a day in the countryside. You can feed and pet most of the resident animals, you can rent a dog by the hour, and you can even soak in in an onsen-style bath alongside a pool full of cavorting capybaras.

The capybaras are one of the main draws here, and the fairly sizeable herd seem to be happy and well cared for. Capybaras are aquatic, social animals, and here they have ample opportunities to swim and hang out together. Capybara chow is available from a vending machine, and you can feed them (using a small pan rather than by hand) and of course pet them.

Some of the park's other star animals include red pandas, binturongs (aka bearcats), coatis, meerkats, lemurs, a Pallas's Cat and several other exotic mammals, none of which you're allowed to pet. Less exotic but more approachable animals include penguins, puffins, lots of rabbits, kangaroos, alpacas, Patagonian maras, horses, sheep, pigs and a Bactrian camel.

Despite all the exotic animals on call, one of the most popular attractions is the open-air dog zone, where more than a dozen friendly Samoyeds, Huntaways (a New Zealand sheep-herding dog) and other big dogs are on duty at any given time. (There's also a cat and small-dog area, but the animals there are more aloof.)

A few dogs are also available for rental (Y800 for twenty minutes), which means you can take them out for a walk or a run in the dog-friendly areas of the park. There's also a daily dog show, where trained dogs perform tricks like jumping through hoops and catching frisbees. [Continue]

It isn't the biggest or the most populous cat cafe in town, but the vivacious and outgoing proprietor helps make Nekoen (Cat Park) a comfortable spot to hang out for an hour. And it doesn't hurt that they serve alcohol, so you can treat the place as a cat bar as well as a cat cafe. Beers and canned cocktails are Y400, while soft drinks are Y150 each.

Fifteen lively cats were in residence when we visited, including one very playful two-month-old kitten. Since this is a rescue-cat cafe though, the population varies as new cats come in and other cats are adopted. The playroom itself is relatively small, with seating for around six or seven visitors at a time. Cats and visitors can enjoy a view of Tokyo Skytree, which is about fifteen minutes away on foot.

With English-speaking staff and a website translated into nine different languages, Nekoen is well prepared for the tourists who frequent this sightseer-popular neighborhood. Note that tourists who arrive in sandals with no socks will be required to purchase a pair of embarrassing cat-themed socks to wear during their visit - don't say you haven't been warned. [Continue]

The Animal Cafes guidebook is now available in stores throughout Japan, and worldwide through Kinokuniya and other online booksellers!

It's a bilingual (English/Japanese), expertly curated guide to the very best pet cafes located around Japan, with unbiased reviews and plenty of candid photos of the resident cats, dogs, rabbits, parakeets and owls that you'll encounter there.

With its prime location overlooking JR Harajuku station, this newest branch of the Mocha cafe chain packs in the crowds, including a good number of overseas tourists. The playroom is fairly compact, but there's plenty of comfortable seating and a fantastic panoramic view looking out over Yoyogi Park.

You can drop in for a quick ten-minute visit if you like, or stay awhile longer and opt for the "free drink" plan and have all the coffee or tea you like for just Y350. We found late weekday afternoons to be a good time to visit - the crowds thin out, and the sixteen resident cats are relatively active, perhaps in anticipation of dinnertime. [Continue]

Prepare for a very interactive experience at Bird Zoo - a good number of the more than 100 resident parrots and other tropical birds in the aviary here will attempt to perch on your head and shoulders at some point. They're just being friendly, although a parrot's idea of friendship often involves a bit of pecking, squawking and gentle biting. Attentive human staff are on hand to introduce you to various birds, or take them off your hands (and shoulders and head) if you're feeling overwhelmed.

Our African Grey Parrot was happy to have his neck rubbed gently, while Sun Parakeets, Rainbow Lorikeets and other smaller birds were content just to sit on shoulders and make a lot of noise. You can also gently bounce the small birds up and down while they're sitting on your finger. Bird snacks can be purchased for Y100, but they're really unnecessary, as you'll get plenty of attention even without dispensing food. [Continue]

Located on the second floor of a church in suburban Hachioji, this is the first Tokyo branch of the Osaka-based group of rescue-dog cafes. There were eight enthusiastic dogs and one very patient Persian cat in residence during a recent visit, all of them available for adoption.

The small pack of friendly dogs here are enough to keep things lively here without getting too chaotic, and we noticed the playroom was much less noisy than some more heavily populated dog cafes that we've been to. The dogs represented a variety of breeds and ages, including a frisky three-month-old Japanese Spitz puppy and a rather docile four-month-old Shiba that we were encouraged to pick up and hold.

While the shop can get crowded on weekends, on a weekday afternoon there was only one other customer, along with two staff members who spend most of their time playing with (and cleaning up after) the dogs and chatting with customers. Children are welcome, and if you like, you can bring along your own dog to socialize with the residents.


Hundreds of dogs and their human companions made the trek out to Tokyo Big Sight convention center in early April for InterPets 2016, Japan's biggest pet fair.

Although the fair also caters to the interests of cat fanciers, lizard lovers and tropical fish enthusiasts, a majority of the exhibitors were here to show off the latest consumer products for dogs. And judging from the number of canine-filled baby carriages here they seemed to be the main target audience, although we also spotted a few confused-looking cats and inquisitive meerkats being wheeled around the hall.

Visiting dogs could look forward to free samples of doggy treats, while a few booths carried more elaborate cakes and pastries, and others focused on health foods. One Hokkaido-based company went even further with a full lineup of prepared gourmet dinners, including minestrone soup, liver steaks and venison-liver stew. [Continue]

Cute cat-themed bento lunchbox from Japan

It's the perfect gift for any cat lover who eats lunch. Direct from Japan, sold worldwide in the Animal Cafes shop. (US$11.)