Fact: humans like petting small, furry animals, and humans will look for places to pet all kinds of furry animals.
I’m not talking about lame petting zoos with a couple of goats and a pony though. It started off with cat cafes. While originally a concept from Taipei, the idea of paying a reasonable fee to pet and play with hordes of fluffy kitties really took off in Japan. The first one opened in Osaka in 2004/5 and many other copycat (haha) cafes popped up soon after.
But just petting cats wasn’t enough for Japan and the world, obviously. The world was soon introduced to more animal cafes from Japan. Rabbit cafes started opening up, then a couple for dogs, birds and even goats! The latest we’ve heard were for hedgehogs and owls.
So here’s where Ikemofu stands out from the massive sea of animal cafes available. It’s a petting zoo for owls, bunnies, prairie dogs, hedgehogs, meerkats, chinchillas, guinea pigs, sugar gliders, and even a fennec fox! If you’ve ever wanted to pet any small, furry animal imaginable, this is the place to be.
A two-hour shift with these exotic creatures will set you back ¥2400. You get to spend an hour (technically 45 minutes) in the Owl Room first, where (obviously) the owls are kept, as well as some iguanas and other reptiles in the back. I’m not much of an owl expert but there were a barn owls, tiny owls, Hedwig from Harry Potter and beautiful ones with grey or gold feathers roosting peacefully as they watched a group of 10 of us mill into the room with our jaws hanging low in awe.
After packing our bags in the provided lockers and sanitising our hands with alcohol, the owl keeper gave a quick introduction on the owls and explained the rules, such as no picking up of the owls yourself and how to properly pet an owl. She also explained the various signs attached to the owls: a big green OK signified this owl could be chosen to be carried, those with a red NG meant they were for admiring only and those tagged with a blue Zzz meant that they were on a break from their fan meeting duties.
As you’re not given much time to pet the owls, my advice is to quickly pick one to carry. All you have to do is to let the keeper know which owl you’d like to hold and she’ll handle the rest.
After the Owl Room, we then proceeded to the Small Animals Room. There was a bigger crowd here and much more to see. Once the briefing was given (same as in the Owl Room), guests were eager to start petting and holding the tiny creatures. The sugar gliders were easily the most popular (but also smelt really bad), as were the hedgehogs and chinchillas.
To carry the hedgehogs and bunnies, you’re given a pee pad and gloves to protect yourselves from the quills. Fun fact: the hedgehog I carried peed quite a bit and pooped three nuggets in the whole five minutes I was carrying it. Unfortunately, the fennec fox was on a break and we could only watch it in its enclosure but otherwise, the whole experience was super fun.
Ikemofu is definitely a place I recommend to travellers of all ages. We saw young children lovingly carry guinea pigs and a sweet old man getting a kick out of being licked by a hedgehog. I would rather not get into the ethics of such cafes, although I would like to point out that the keepers were all very well-trained and kept a lookout for each animal that was out of its cage. The place was very clean and the animals looked fine. I can only assume it can be a bit overwhelming to just be in a room with so much noise but it honestly looked okay from my very amateur point of view. If you have an issue with these cafes, I suggest just not going.
Need to know:
- One hour in either room costs ¥1300; an hour each in both rooms costs ¥2400
- Post about Ikemofu on social media (Instagram, Facebook, Twitter) within your time there for an immediate ¥10 discount
- Reservations are highly recommended; book online or call 03-5396-7751
- Operating hours:
- Weekday: 1pm-6pm
- Weekends and PH: 11am-7pm (small animal room); 11.30am-6.30pm (owl room)
- Address: 1-29-4 Narita Building, 6F. Higashi-Ikebukuro, Toshima-ku, Tokyo, 170-0013
- Location for GPS here
- While there is a lift that goes up to Ikemofu, the cafe is NOT wheelchair friendly
- More information available here