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]
The "Owl House" is on a side street off the famous Sugamo shopping arcade, or Granma's Harajuku as it is commonly known. During a recent visit most of the clientele were chatty seniors in their trademark outfits of clashing florals. We took our seats at a table overlooking the central, glass-enclosed aviary. Drinks are included in the one-hour fee, and cakes are Y500 extra - but well worth the extravagance.
While the menu features seven cakes decorated with lifelike owl faces, only two or three varieties are available each day. We went with a spectacled owl cake, a dead ringer for the cafe's own Watson, and were very pleasantly surprised. It was a real taste sensation - rich dark chocolate mousse with orange and vanilla flavors, a cashew-nut beak and crunchy almond-cookie wings. It's really far more sophisticated than it looks.
Among Tokyo owl cafes, Owl House stands out for its unusual parliament of owls. Along with the familiar barn owl, scops and eagle owls are the rare spectral owl, snowy owl, Verreaux's eagle owl, sooty owl, striped owl, Ural owl, and a tiny ferruginous pygmy owl. [Continue]
The setup at this rescue-cat cafe is quite minimal - a few perches and climbing trees, some lockers and vending machines and a few seats for visitors, a handful of cat-themed magazines and just a few cat toys. There's a radio playing in one corner.
Most important though, they do have a lot of cats - some two dozen when we visited, including several kittens - and the atmosphere was more lively than expected, with lots of dramatic chases and thrilling acrobatic performances. [Continue]