This petting zoo in a deserted shopping mall in the wilds of Chiba doesn't look too promising. First impressions can be deceptive, however, for like the still escalators that only buzz into life when you step on them, the mall shops are quite busy and MOFF Animal World is teeming with interactive animal experiences.
Entrance to the petting zoo is a very reasonable 800 yen. Almost as soon as you enter, a friendly meerkat comes running to be petted. Miro is a female meerkat and she purrs like a cat when stroked. Her neighbor, a fennec fox called Fennegi with massive ears, was curled up in a ball when we were there, and was still snoring when we left.
The main interactive zone is the alpaca pen, a large fenced-in area with an eclectic group of animals. In addition to three alpacas, there's a sleepy capybara, a couple of dozy Patagonian mara, and an adventurous giant tortoise that never stopped stomping around. The star of this zone, however, is a kid goat that likes to step on the tortoise, eat the capybara's bedstraw, and butt heads with the sheep. He'll also munch on your clothes if you aren't careful.
In addition, there's a pen full of rabbits and guinea pigs that can be stroked if you can catch them. Boxes on the floor hold more surprises - a hedgehog under newspaper, a swarm of chicks in one, and tiny newborn guinea pigs in another. On perches and ropes dotted around the room there is a toucan, a kookaburra, a dancing cockatoo and a couple of mangy parrots. Some snakes and lizards bask in tanks, and a cone-head chameleon and a three-horned chameleon do their best to camouflage themselves in the artificial foliage.
For an additional fee of 200 yen you get to enter the tropical bird room. A cup of birdseed is included, and this guarantees a hearty welcome from the flock of colorful birds in the aviary. We were mobbed by vivid blue budgerigars, yellow sun parakeets, Java sparrows, rosy-faced lovebirds and a couple of large roosters sporting outrageous coxcombs. The competition for birdseed was fierce.
There's also a cafe populated by dogs in the same hall (one drink order required) and a rather small cat room (separate entrance fee of 500 yen).
Update: The dozen owls and falcons at MOFF Animal World were moved to the new MOFF Owl Cafe in Tsukuba as of late 2015.