Even in Sendai, the temperatures are getting uncomfortably high. So if you find yourself walking along the Clis Road shopping arcade, hot and bored, why not stop by one of Sendai's most surprising attractions: an owl cafe!
Pet cafes are nothing new to Japan, but tend to center around the most major metropolitan areas of Tokyo or Osaka, especially for animals any more exotic than the average feline. That is why I was surprised and delighted to find this gem on the fourth floor in the shopping arcade, the elevator sandwiched between Kaldi and a lottery ticket vendor, near Three Coins.
While the policy states clearly that the price of 1200 yen per person is for a one hour session, the cafe workers tend not to kick anyone out unless there is a crowd or a line at the door.
Once inside, a patron can engage with a variety of owls, including a snowy owl (who is not to be touched)
Many owls are perched at the bar on the back wall, waiting for a visitor to come and engage them. The helpful staff demonstrate the proper method for petting an owl (using the back sides of the fingers) and distribute rule sheets upon entrance, translated into almost-passable English. For the animal lover, the rule sheets aren't entirely necessary. Don't spook the birds. No flash photographs. No loud sounds. Still, it is good that they tried to put it into a foreign language, especially since the staff members I met didn't speak English so much or so well.
Admittedly, some of the birds looked a little freaked out, but none seemed threatening or inhospitable, even to my toddler.
They even have a barn owl, the species made famous to my generation through the movie The Labyrinth.
I find, in Japan, frequently the most random things are also the most spectacular, and here is no exception. Inside the cafe dedicated to owls, we find not only miniature pigs but also a very small monkey, turning the place into more of a petting-zoo, less of a cafe despite the unlimited free refills on a small selection of drinks.
The pigs love to be snuggled and will sleep in your lap, though the staff will caution you against picking them up. There is no need to. Just sit on the floor, and they will come to you.
The monkey is a different story. The marmoset seems happy enough to watch passers-by from his cage, but the staff will open the cage for you, and if the marmoset is willing, strap him into a little leashed waist-band to prevent him from running amok around the store.
Hideyoshi refused to cooperate with the leash during our visit, but did run up my arm to perch on the shoulder when he got the chance. He also darted over to my daughter, scaring her a bit as he landed on her scalp. Once she calmed down (which took a few seconds, as no one expects a marmoset on the scalp), we said goodbye to our new friend Hideyoshi.
Another fun thing to watch at the owl cafe is feeding time. If you come at the right time and the place is not too busy, you might get to watch the staff members feed the youngest owlet in the place, who attacks the bits of meat with tiny ferocity.
If that is not enough bird-contact for you, guests can also hold their own owl, acting as a perch and assisted by staff, who provide talon-proof accessories and a blanket to shield the guests from bird waste.
Another attraction is the sugar gliders, who unfortunately were asleep during out visit.
If you are an animal lover and ever bored in Sendai, walking through the arcade on a hot afternoon, don't forget to drop by the owl cafe. You might just make some new friends.