The star attraction at the new branch of Castle of Owls, which opened in Harajuku on September 2015, is a little owl called Bolt. After his lunch of raw quail meat, Bolt likes to take a little siesta. Unlike the other owls who sleep standing on one leg, Bolt likes to stretch out and lie down on the comfy fake grass for a bit of shut-eye (well, one eye anyway). According to the staff, this behavior is usually only exhibited by chicks in the safety of the nest, and shows that Bolt is completely relaxed and unafraid of predators.
Bolt is not the only character at the cafe. A rare Aplomado falcon called Burt loves nothing better than old newspapers which he tears up with beak and claws into tiny strips, like an old curmudgeon sickened by the endless celebrity gossip that passes for news today. In a corner of the shop, a two-month old barn owl chick still in its fluffy baby feathers leans on a broom like a bedraggled drunk sleeping it off in an alley. A tawny owl called Moggly is the friendliest bird in the place, and he chirp-sings with joy and closes his eyes when his head is stroked.
We were lucky to arrive just after feeding time on a recent Monday afternoon, and the joint was jumping. Rock eagle owls and horned owls were squawking and flapping on their perches, making it very obvious that they were still hungry. The staff gave us a little bowl of raw meat morsels to feed some of the smaller owls, and it was a real hoot to see the tiny pallid scops owl grab a big chunk in its claw to nibble on later. Beside him, a big tawny owl swallowed a similar chunk whole.
Like the new breed of owl cafes, Castle of Owls is a casual place. No reservations are required, and after reading the rule poster (in Japanese and English with helpful comic-book illustrations) and paying the Y1500 fee, you are free to spend an hour stroking the owls, photographing them and even handling a couple. Entrance fee includes a soft drink. For an additional fee, you can buy a bowl of quail meat to feed the hungry owls.
Castle of Owls has no English signboard outside, but it's easy to find because it's in the same building as the Tokyo Snake Center.