Monday, March 21, 2016

Making major life decisions "...based solely on a couple of hooters."

She looks like how I imagine every exasperated celebrity looks
when rabid fans run up and interrupt their day for a selfie.
Way way back, before the beginning of time I had agreed to move to Japan with The Mister and the Critters, I did an internet search.

You see, the Mister had come home that day and said “hey, you know that one time the company sent us to Mexico for a year?  What if… they did that again.  But this time… to Japan... for three years?

And I said something to the effect of “I AM NOT MOVING AGAIN YOU DOODIE HEAD HUSBAND OF MINE GET OUT OF MY FACE.”  Then I found a corner to rock back in forth in while visions of once again putting ALL our crap into boxes bounced through my mind’s eye.

I’m very mature, you see.

After I was able to come out of my box-crazed trance, I comforted myself in the warm glow of my companion; the internet.  I searched for interesting things to see in Japan.  And while I’d like to pretend that I was most attracted to Japan’s beautiful appreciation for culture, it’s immaculate and breathtaking shrines, or even Japan’s impressive attention to detail and hand craftsmanship in day to day life… I’d be lying.  
The first thing* that stood out to me, the thing that started the snowball in my head of “okay, maybe I can move internationally again”… was an article about Owl Cafes.

That ball got rolling pretty fast after that, just based solely on a couple of hooters. 
(a sentence I sort of just needed to type for the sheer absurdity of it all.)

Cafe culture here is varied - and my love of coffee has lead me to explore several.  You’ve got your standard Starbucks, handy because they’re all smoke-free and ’normal’ to my American sensibilities.  Then there are cafes that allow you to bring in your dog, which obviously I’m a big fan of.  Then there are cafes which are clearly more set up to handle businessmen - a little brusque, and more or less like walking into a brick of cigarette smoke (but they have a breakfast service where you get toast and an egg included with your cup of coffee).  Lastly, there are the critter cafes- those establishments that serve coffee, but that you really go to because they’ll let you drink that coffee while you hang out with a weird animal.

You may remember I brought The Mister to a bunny cafe in last spring.  We realized pretty quickly that men… don’t really go to critter cafes.  It’s totally set up to be a super cute time with lots of snuggles and pink and stuffed animals.  Thus, when I was out for a walk a few months ago and saw a sign for a new Owl Cafe, I knew KP2 would be a much better suited partner in crime.  

We arrived to the cafe, and after having to be let in by one of the staff (because I was too excited to see live owls to look at the kanji on the door and see it was a “pull” not a “push”), we were invited to sit next to a large sculpture of a tree.  Upon each branch perched a different, large species of owl, calmly watching the Cafe’s patrons.  There was one larger owl seated on a perch next to the Cafe’s window, who was more enamored with watching the birds fly by outside (admittedly a bit sad…), and a fence-post-style perch on the opposite wall which featured four smaller owls of differing species.  To the front of the cafe two more perches hosted a Great Horned Owl and a Snowy owl.  The lady staff member approached us and explained that you can pay to visit the cafe by the hour.  Coffees were included in the price, and were self-serve from a coffee vending machine in the back corner.  Pictures were encouraged, but no flash.  And if you really liked one of the birds, you could wear a falconry glove and have that bird perch on your arm for a few moments at the end of your visit.

Here’s how I felt while soaking in all that info:

KP2 wasn’t disappointed in the experience by any means, but I think she wasn’t ready for me to be snapping the 600 photos I took (I really did take 600.  Sorry not sorry.)

Here are my highlights:
The owls were all well cared for, and the lady staff member CLEARLY sincerely loved each of the birds.  And the birds were genuinely fond of her.  She snuggled with the snowy owl.  SNUGGLED.  

The Snowy Owl was the star of the place.  I suspect because she looked, obvi, like everyone’s favorite mail-delivery owl, Hedwig.  I head a lot of hushed exclamations while we were there “Ah!  Ha-Ree Po-Ta!(sound it out, it’s adorable, promise.)

To that effect, Shirotama (the Snowy Owl, yes I did learn all their names don’t judge me), was selected to sit on a young lady’s arm for pictures.  She didn’t hold the owl’s tether quite firm enough, and Shiro-tama decided to take a quick fly.  She landed over by the post with the 4 smaller owls, and I nearly peed my pants at the reaction of this little one who easily quadrupled in size out of fear:

My favorite owl was the Barn Owl: Torimochi.  She advertised (and prominetly features on) the cafe's twitter account.  I can’t.  She’s SO BEAUTIFUL.  And whenever the owl lady would come over to her, she’d cock her head in such a way that she looked just like she was smiling.  Notice me, Torimochi.  I want to be your friennnnnnndddddddd.

Long story short, when we originally sat down, I was all “oh, we have to pay for a whole hour?  I doubt we’ll be here for more than 20 minutes, this place is small.”  And then a little over an hour later we were sort of lingering over leaving.  I really enjoyed it.  And it was my entire bucket list for Japan.  So… I guess 'thanks for all the fish?'   Nah, but that was cool.  I’ll be back.**

What critter would YOU go ga-ga for if they had a cafe?  
Tell me in the comments!

today’s little language lesson:

*The second thing which piqued my interest?  The Fox village.  Don’t worry, I’ll get there.

**I have been back since.  So many times, in fact, that my FREQUENT FLIER CARD (it’s a real thing I’m not even joking) is 1 stamp from a free visit with Torimochi!

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