'Owl' have a coffee with snakes on the side
RIDING the coattails of the cat cafe boom, animal cafes have become popular in Japan, especially in urban areas.
Besides cats, customers can now get up close with a variety of creatures - including snakes, owls and rabbits.
Animal cafes in Osaka have increased eightfold over the last five years, as they are increasingly sought out by people seeking solace, and foreign tourists craving novelty.
Company employee Nami Kuroki, 18, enjoyed having a 1m-long snake draped around her neck at the Rock Star reptile cafe in Naniwa Ward.
Rock Star's reptile collection also includes iguanas and chameleons. The cafe, which opened in 2014, doubled its seating capacity to 40 last year.
A tally compiled by the Osaka city government showed that there are 48 animal cafes in the city as of late August.
More than half are cat cafes but the number of outlets with reptiles, owls, small birds, hamsters and other types of animals has also climbed.
Fukuro no Mise (Owl shop) in the city's Kita Ward has stepped up efforts to woo foreigners, such as posting information online.
"It's interesting because we don't have shops like this in Taiwan," said a 20-year-old university student visiting Japan.
Ashiya Get Plus, a pet rabbit shop in Higashi-Nada Ward, Kobe, added a cafe to its premises in 2012.
"Our place even seems to be on a list of popular dating spots," its operator said.
A survey conducted by the Environment Ministry in October last year revealed 314 cat cafes across Japan, up by 89 from two years ago.
"The use (of animal cafes) has spread widely, as they not only serve as places for healing but also offer people a unique experience that's easy to post on Facebook and other sites," said Akemi Natsuyama, a senior researcher at the Hakuhodo Institute of Life and Living.
But some cafes have run into trouble.
In June, the Tokyo metropolitan government revoked the business licence of a cat cafe in Sumida Ward for failure to treat sick cats and other improper management.
In Osaka, the authorities ordered an animal cafe to improve after complaints of animal hairs in the food.
"If animals are abused for the sake of business, it's really defeating the purpose," said Megumi Yokoi, head of Animalship classroom for children, a Tokyo-based company offering animal-assisted education.
THE YOMIURI SHIMBUN/
ASIA NEWS NETWORK