This owl cafe in the center of Akihabara has a unique atmosphere - more like a theme-park attraction than an animal cafe. From the outside it looks like a repurposed downtown office, but inside it's a fantasy world of sleepy owls, crystal chandeliers, uniformed staff and soft classical music.
The cafe has been open since August 2014 and is popular with Japanese and tourists equally for its friendly vibe, high interactivity quotient and calming, relaxing mood.
It's easy to make an online reservation, and once the date and time are confirmed, you'll be asked to arrive ten minutes before the appointment. The uniformed staff hand out an informative folder (in Japanese and English) that goes well beyond the usual bird-handling etiquette tips. It also has pages of interesting info on owls' feeding habits, diet, eye color, pet laws, etc. Even the bird-handling talk is theatrical - while the manager makes the announcement, another staff member holds up a bird leash and shows how to return an owl to its perch - just like a flight attendant demonstrating a seat belt.
One dedicated customer confessed that she just couldn't bear to be away from the owls that day and had dropped by on her lunch break. She knew every one of the birds by name, and also gave us tips on their individual personalities. One first-timer sat at her table with a serene smile on her face as she stared enraptured at a little raptor perched on her arm. You could tell that she'd definitely be coming back soon.
The twenty resident owls are all very friendly and used to being handled. They are named after Japanese foods such as Takoyaki, Monja, Katsuo and Shirasu, or vegetables like Onion, Peanuts, Okura and Cherry Tomato. The species include large eagle-owls, striped owls, mid-size barn owls and scops owls and many small varieties.
The cafe has seats for about twelve or fourteen visitors at a time. The cover charge of 1,500 yen per hour includes a drink (choose from a selection of bottled water) and a laminated photo of you posing with an owl on your arm. Let the staff know if it's your birthday and you'll receive a special gift.