Fukuro No Mise is a popular Owl Cafe in Tokyo, Japan where you literally dine and interact with a variety of owls. This review features photos of the owl cafe, and answers the question whether it’s worth the money. Animal cafes are a distinctly “Japanese” experience, with a variety of different animals, from cats to goats and more, available for interactions throughout Tokyo. It’s my understanding that these started as a way for the Japanese to interact with animals. As most Japanese lack the space for a pet and the culture is in some ways isolating, these animal cafes were a way to fill an emotional void, so to speak.
Owl, rabbit, and cat cafes have recently proliferated, as word spread about them after features in the mainstream media, drawing a new audience of tourists to go alongside the typical Japanese demographic. Our experience at the Fukuro No Mise owl cafe was that the group in our seating was a mix of tourists, Japanese couples, and businessmen. Some people (like us) were clearly there for the novelty of it all, while others seemed to be seeking companionship with the owls.
Our visit to Fukuro No Mise started with me discovering it on a blog I read (there’s a good map on that post that will help you find the cafe, by the way). Based on that post, I knew I had to go first thing in the morning to book a time slot, and I arrived at the nondescript shop shortly after they opened (I walked right past the shop my first time looking for it…and that was with the help of the map!) and found a line of about 5 people also waiting to make reservations for a time slot later in the day…
How this time slot system works is that the day is broken up into hour-long windows, and about 12 people are allowed in the restaurant per hour. Only same-day reservations are available, so you need to show up right when the owl cafe opens, sign up for a slot, and pay the cover charge at that time, in cash (when we visited, it was 2,200 yen per person…but it seems like the price is constantly increasing).
You receive no confirmation, ticket, or receipt acknowledging that you have a slot, which was a little disconcerting, but the man who booked my slot remembered me when we showed up later, and we were promptly allowed inside when our window began.
Even less than 30 minutes after opening, there were few time slots available for that evening. Since we were going to the Robot Restaurant earlier that night, I booked the last slot of the night, at 9 pm (you can find their current hours on the owl cafe’s website).
The staff here speaks very limited English, so booking a slot is relatively easy. Even once you’re at the Owl Cafe, figuring out the rules and everything is pretty simple.
The owl cafe is incredibly popular, so you need to plan on going right when they open to book a slot. This can be a bit of a hassle as it means two trips out to the cafe, but that’s how the process works.
When we showed up at Fukuro No Mise 5 minutes before our time slot started, and promptly at 9, the group before us exited, and we entered. There were 2 other English-speakers in the group, and we were all handed a laminated list of rules in English while a long presentation was given to everyone else in Japanese.
The owl cafe requests that English-speakers come on Friday when a staff member who speaks English works, but this wasn’t feasible for us; I’d also assume that slots are even more difficult to come by on Fridays given this request and the proliferation of owl cafe coverage online.
This one is probably the most popular owl cafe judging by search results, but here’s a list of other owl cafes in Japan in case you can’t visit Fukuro No Mise.
The owl cafe has a lot of rules, but all were reasonable and basically seemed to exist so neither the owls nor the guests were harmed. Basically, ways to handle and not handle the owls, a prohibition on flash photography, and a reminder that owls might crap on you. Pretty simple stuff.
The rules are simple, but important. These owls have claws, and while the smaller guys don’t seem threatening, there are some big owls in here, too.
You also are given a choice of a non-alcoholic drink (included in the cover charge), which I suppose is what makes this a cafe. Otherwise, there’s no food or anything, which is probably for the best. Actually, the drink just seemed like a formality more than anything else; I’m not sure anyone in the owl cafe even actually drank the drinks.
After receiving the drinks, it comes time to hold the owls. Fukuro No Mise has a variety of owls, from babies to huge, man-eating (probably) owls. I elected to start small and work my way up because, frankly, the big guys looked intimidating.
I wasn’t completely satisfied that the larger one wouldn’t dig its talons into me, and I wasn’t keen on trying to visit a hospital in Japan. Imagine trying to explain via pantomime that you’ve been attacked by an owl! (Although, this is Japan, so I’m sure the doctors hear stranger things on a regular basis.)
The process for picking up an owl is simple: you point to an owl you want to perch on you (your arm, head, whatever), a staff member picks up the owl and places it on you, and you hold a tether to make sure it doesn’t fly off to the Skytree or somewhere.
The cafe is very small (think of it as a cozy living room), and with 12 or so guests, plus 2-3 staff people, plus like 20 owls, it feels a bit cozy, but not crowded.
You have ample room to move around with the owls, take photos, and see the other owls. You just don’t have room to run around in circles with the owl flapping its wings.
I know very little about the temperament and intelligence of owls, but they all seemed pretty interested in the human interactions, and there were a few that were constantly looking at me. I locked eyes with a couple of them, and I swear it felt like they were staring into my soul. Or something like that.
Over the course of the hour, you get about 45 minutes of one-on-one time with an owl, or variety of owls, which I think is pretty good. I handled 4-5 hours in that time, while my wife found one owl that I think she fell in love with, and gave it her undivided attention because she thought that owl was feeling lonely.
I think this type of thing is fairly common, as there was what I assumed was a regular in there while we were (he was there for at least 2 hours), and he spent the entire time sitting in one spot caressing a single owl. It was…uh…interesting.
At the end of the hour, everyone in the group is given a gift; these are little trinkets that are also sold in the owl cafe, and range from owl towels to owl toys to a Japanese book about owls. This is a nice gesture, but the items themselves are pretty minor. Following that, they show you the door and bring in the next group.
One thing that needs to be discussed is how humane the owl cafe is. Unfortunately, I cannot completely answer that, but I can supply some information along with my general “feeling” about the restaurant so you can make an informed decision.
Before our visit, I didn’t really consider the question of whether the restaurant is inhumane to owls. However, as soon as I got there and saw the owls, I couldn’t shake the question from my mind.
I began wondering whether the owls were bred for/by the cafe, if they were captured in the wild, if they were being rehabilitated, how they were treated, and a whole host of other things regarding their well-being. The owl cafe is rather small, and has a lot of owls, all on cords attached to perches.
While not inherently inhumane, this is what raised the aforementioned questions. On the plus side, some of the owls were not allowed to interact with visitors, they all looked very healthy, all had specific diets, and I was told that they each have rest periods. All of this suggests that at least some concern is given to their well-being.
As these concerns were on the front of my mind, I began researching all of this right after we left the cafe, and I found one post from an expat living in Tokyo indicating that these are rescue owls that are well cared-for by the owners.
This was a naked assertion and I don’t have the means of confirming or refuting its veracity (and now I can’t even find the article), so take that info with a grain of salt. It seems like one of those things that might just have been written to reassure those who have a bit of discomfort about their decision to visit the owl cafe.
After being in the restaurant, I’m reasonably satisfied that–regardless of their origins–the animals at this particular owl cafe were being treated humanely, but I’m not confident that the concept of having owls in a cafe, in the first place, is right.
Owls seem unlike cats, rabbits, goats, and other Japanese “animal” cafe creatures in their wild-ness. It was a fun experience, but it left me feeling a little guilty once I actually gave it thought.
As a result, I don’t think I’d visit another owl cafe, but your mileage may vary depending upon how you feel (or what you know) about the nature of owls.
I’m certainly not writing this to claim some moral superiority over those who choose to visit an owl cafe (after all, I did visit one), as I truly don’t know how humane these types of cafes are, and what the true disposition of owls is. I’m just putting this all out there as food for thought in case you’re considering a visit to an owl cafe.
Overall, if it’s something that interests you and you don’t have moral qualms with the concept, the owl cafe is a lot of fun. Interacting with owls is a pretty incredible experience, and it’s sort of surreal to have a live owl perched on your arm or head. You will have the opportunity to have significant interactions with a variety of owls, and the amount of time spent with the owls seemed just about right. The experience basically cut right to the chase, and you have plenty of time with the owls. Fukuro No Mise has an intimate, home-grown charm that makes it feel like an authentically “Japanese” experience, which is a definite plus. Word has definitely gotten out about this owl cafe and its popularity has exploded (and prices skyrocketed), but it still manages to feel like a unique and ‘local’ experience. So long as you are okay with the concept and don’t go in hungry, you will definitely have a good time at the Fukuro No Mise owl cafe.
If you’re planning a visit to Tokyo, Japan, please check out my other posts about Tokyo for ideas of things to do (or not do) while there. Tokyo has a lot of things to see and do, so I also highly recommend the Lonely Planet Japan Guide to help better develop an efficient plan while there.
Have you visited an owl (or other animal) cafe? Would you feel comfortable going to an owl cafe? Any thoughts or tips of your own to add? Share any other questions or thoughts you have in the comments!