Hoot! Owl Cafés Are the Latest Craze in Tokyo, Japan (Video)

CC BY 2.0. Toukou Sousui 淙穂鶫箜 via Flickr

Tokyo, one of the world's largest and most hi-tech metropolises, is known for having quirky hangouts, from love hotels, to hammock-themed restaurants to cat cafés, where people can enjoy feline company without the hassle of emptying the litter box. Now, the latest trend hitting Tokyo's streets is the owl café, where patrons can have a warm cuppa while observing these majestic birds.

Called "fukurou cafes" in Japanese, these places offer owl-themed food and drink, and became popular last year since the opening of Fukurou no Mise (“Owl Shop”) and Tori no Iru Cafe (“The Cafe with Birds”). More have opened since then, including Fukurou Sabou (“Owl Teahouse”), Owl Family, and Crew.

According to News.com.au, these cafés can have strict policies about handling the birds, though in same places, customers are allowed to have contact with them:

The complexity lies in the fact that humans and owls don't generally hang out together - so it's an unusual experience for both parties. Customers regularly have to line up at these owl cafes (too many people inside at one time will scare the owls) and once they are in there are a set of strict guidelines to follow, including rules like don't touch the owls unless with a staff member, disinfect your hands before and after touching an owl, don't use your camera flash and don't talk loudly.

The popularity of these animal-themed cafés is no doubt fuelled by the fact that many Tokyo apartments forbid pets. The concept has caught on worldwide though, with cat cafés opening up recently in Spain, Germany, Hungary and Paris. (Owl cafés, though, seem like another ball game completely.)

Of course, there have been understandable concerns from animal rights advocates, who believe that these supervised, "pet-rental" businesses are detrimental to the animals. On the other hand, however, these establishments must obtain official permits, and follow strict regulations for animal welfare, with some cafés working with strays, and actively raising awareness about the proper treatment of animals.

In any case, it's clear that the customers who do go to such places are seeking much-needed companionship, trying to reconnect with nature as best as they can, while living in one of the world's busiest cities. Nevertheless, owls aren't your typical domesticated animal -- it's probably better if they stayed in the wild. More over at PSFK and News.com.au.