It was excellent.
Even though I still haven’t been to an actual cat café, and have lived here in the land of cat cafes for just over a year and a half, I went to an Owl café first.
I had heard there was one in Ikebukuro, very close to where I lived, but as I’m still basically illiterate, it was hard for me to find information on the place online. However, it turned out that one of Mark’s students went, and told him about it, and then I told a friend about it, and then the next thing I knew, we were making some plans to go!
The place was called IkeFUkurou, which is a Japanese play on words, since it is an owl (fukurou) café in Ikebukuro. You get it. Actually, there are owl sculptures all over the city, since the owl is its mascot. Which is awesome. I still haven’t heard any owls, yet, though.
It’s located just outside of the station on the east side, and across the big intersection from Junkudo (Japan’s largest bookstore: also in Ikebukuro) on the station side of the street, on the 6th floor of a building. Because of course. Nothing is ever on the ground floor, unless it’s a normal café or restaurant, maybe.
I went with my friend Yoshie, who is kind of a coworker (we only see each other once a week). We’d been planning to go to a cat café (also in Ikebukuro), but when this popped up, I told her about it immediately.
When we got to the spot on the map where the place was supposed to be, we couldn’t find it. Of course. So Yoshie called to find out how to get there, and they told us that we had to make a reservation. So we made one for 4pm (it was 3:30 at the time) and then went over to hang out in the Starbucks next to Junkudo until it was time. We were given express instructions NOT to arrive beforehand, and when we got there later, it was easy to see why: the elevator opens up right into the ‘café’, and if you arrive early, you’ll end up lining up on the fire escape. And it’s July in Japan, so that’s really not an exciting option.
BUT: when it was time to go in, promptly at 4pm as the 3pm crowd was leaving, they called our names in order of reservation: we took our shoes off, got into slippers, put all of our bags in bins on a shelf at the entrance, and were allowed to enter, with our camera or phones.
It was a small room, not exactly a café by the normal idea of the word, although there were seats and a table or two. The ‘drinks’ were not served: at about the halfway point when your name was called to pay (Y1400), you could take a drink from the mini-fridge near the register. The choices: water, flavoured tea, beer. It’s ok: on a hot day, all anyone really wanted was water anyway, right?
Everyone filed in and we all stood around awkwardly, surrounded by owls and not quite knowing what to do. So we all kind of looked at them, perched in their different spots, like it was an art gallery. Oh, and btw: there are pee pads under each perch. I should have expected that. I guess.
There were signs by the owls, who were all on perches: their names, the kind of owl they were, age. Some had a sign in red that basically said ‘this owl is still ‘in training’ and too young, so you can’t hold this one’.
You can HOLD the owls.
The attendants there gave us some information at the beginning, once we were all inside and the door was closed: please ask if you want to hold an owl. Each person can only hold 3 owls, to make sure that everyone there got a chance.
You can feel free to pet the owls. Please be cautious when approaching them, and don’t do things to annoy them, like poking or sticking cameras that make loud sounds (more on this later) in their faces. Also, the ones which are still in training: go softly with them, since they are still getting used to all of these people coming to visit them.
So, we walked around, looking at all of the owls. At first, we weren’t quite sure how to ‘approach’ an owl (see image above of me looking totally afraid to touch one), but then we saw someone else ask an attendant if they could hold ‘this one’ (pointing), and it started.
After slowly and carefully petting just about ALL of the owls, we thought about which ones we’d want to hold. I automatically went for the dozey one who didn’t get annoyed when I sat next to him and tried to figure out how to touch him. He stayed dozey for the entire hour, basically, and was really easy to hold. I got a glove for him, because his claws were a little sharp.
Then, Yoshie held a nice lady (above) who was also very calm and relaxed. It was really cool to hold them, and they didn’t really seem to mind much. Their feathers were SO SOFT.
We wondered about the birds’ free time: they were all tied to perches, and not really able to go far. Once or twice, a tiny one would fly back to their perch from a person’s arm or shoulder, so it was clear they were ok where they were. After Yoshie held the female owl, she wanted to get down on the ground and walk around for a bit, so the attendant kept close to her and watched her as she hopped around for a few minutes. Then she flew back to her perch on her own.
We knew there was another reservation time for 6pm that evening, but when we left at 5pm, there was no one waiting in line. We figured then that the birds (and attendants) must get hour-long breaks during the day, so the birds can (hopefully) be let off the leashes to do as they please, and so the attendants can clean up the pads and general fluff that gets scattered around.
On an ‘animal-cruelty’/zoo line, I don’t think the birds seem to be mistreated, stressed, or too annoyed with being in their situation. Yes, they’re nocturnal animals and would be sleepy during the day in general, but I’m not sure being in this nice, air-conditioned space is such a bad life. Apparently, a few were rescued from injury or bad owners, and they were here in a sort of ‘recovery’. A few of them were even for sale, although I’m not sure who in their right mind would think it was a good idea to keep an owl as a pet (especially some of the bigger ones). That, to me, would seem cruel.
All-around, the Owl Café was a lot of fun, interesting, and definitely worth the trip. It’s classified as a petting zoo on Facebook, and you can check out Ikefukurou’s FB page here.