Cuteness Overload at Owl Cafe

As the cat cafes are aready passé in Japan :)) there’s this new thing in town : the owl cafe. Actually, it’s not even that new as the owl trend has started to pick up last year.

It sounds a bit unsane, I know. So today I went to Owl Family cafe in Osaka, and it was unbelievably cute. People don’t usually hang out with owls, so that makes the whole experience so unique, I guess.

It was pretty simple: I stopped by the cafe and registered on a list (I had to wait for one and a half hour, as places were already booked). There’s a maximum of 12-15 people entering every hour (from 11-22:00). Too many people would scare the owls.

At the scheduled time, I entered the cafe and sat down together with the other customers. I had to order something (there’s a minimum order: soda for 1,000 yen or alcohol for 1,200 yen). While we sipped our drinks, a worker explained some things about the owls and how to behave with them. It was  in Japanese, so I didn’t understand much, but there was also an English leaflet telling you the basics: you musn’t touch the owls on the belly, legs, neck. You can pat them on the head with the back of your fingers, and put them on your arm, head and shoulders. Oh, and if they fall from your arm and turn with their head upside down, don’t freak out, call the staff :).

Once the explanations finished, you have 50 minutes of great time with the cute owls.

Below, the unusual meeting, in pictures:

This fluffy one was the first one I got to put on my arm and pat. Sooooo flufffy!

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These ladies were kind of sleepy:

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And she was one of my favorites (that’s quite a personality you got there!)

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The white one, when not asleep turned out to be quite a performer.

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And more playing and patting, please :).

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It was fun, it was strange and lovely and really OSSUM! :). Would do it again, for sure.

PS: I know there might be some concerns regarding the animals, of how well treated are they, etc. I’m not an expert, I know, but the owls seemed pretty well taken care of, and tamed and happy.

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One of Japan’s Three Most Beautiful Gardens

There are still a lot of things still clinging on my must-see list in Japan. The three most famous gardens in Japan, Kenroku-en (Kanzawa), Koraku-en (Okayama) and Kairaku-en (Mito), are some of them.

We visited the garden in Okayama during the cherry blossom and it was indeed beautiful. We were impressed by its open space, the perfect alignment of plants, trees, hills, streams and ponds.

One of Japan's Three Most Beautiful Gardens

Koraku-en garden in Okayama

So, this weekend Kenroku-en in Kanazwa was the next victim on the list. Kenroku-en means “the garden combining six characteristics for an ideal garden: spaciousness, serenity, venerability, scenic views, subtle design, and coolness”. It’s kind of difficult for a garden to have all these six attributes altogether, but somehow Kanazawa has all of them.

With clear ponds, beautiful flowers (I adore irises), hills and bridges dotting the green space, Kenroku-en looks indeed like a fairy tale, something not to be missed if you are in Japan. It’s a bit far and expensive to get there (3 hours train ride from Kyoto ~about $70 one way; or the cheaper option is the bus for half the price, 4 hours ride), but it’s worth the effort.

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One of Japan's Three Most Beautiful Gardens, Koraku-en garden, must see gardens Japan, best gardens Japan

Kotoji lantern, the symbol of Kanazawa

Besides the beautiful garden, Kanazawa has other interesting spots as well:

  • The city’s personalized manhole cover – I was very happy to find it! Since I found out about the existence of such art pieces in Japan, I’ve been a bit obsessed with spotting them :).

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  • Cute houses next to some interesting Gaudi style buildings

One of Japan's Three Most Beautiful Gard One of Japan's Three Most Beautiful Gard

  • Some modern art pieces

One of Japan's Three Most Beautiful Gard One of Japan's Three Most Beautiful Gard

  • One of the most beautiful train stations I’ve seen

One of Japan's Three Most Beautiful Gard

  • Delicious orange juice, straight from the orange itself :) ( found at the Omicho market, Kanazawa’s largest fresh fruit market)

One of Japan's Three Most Beautiful Gard

  • Traditional houses in the Samurai district and the Geisha district, and of course traditional weddings in the temples;

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  • And the most delicious udon I ate so far in Japan, with home made noodles, small mushrooms and….edible gold leafs sprinkled on top. Amazing taste, I’m sure the tiny gold leafs played their role in that :).  (These gold leafs are an important part of Kanazawa’s arts and crafts, the city being the main producer. The gold that covers Kinkakuji temple in Kyoto comes from Kanazawa. People usethe gold flakes in food because of their belief that is good for health and vitality). 

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The Flying Fish in the Sky

Throughout April and early May, I noticed hundreds of giant fish shaped kites popping up all over Japan. They were really beautiful as they were fluttering in the wind, all colorful and intriguing. What was their meaning, why were they displayed in different parts of the cities, from public places like museums or construction sites to Japanese homes?

Well, it turns out that they are called koinobori and they mark Children’s Day, on May 5. In Japan this day used to be known as Boys’ Day, up until 1948, when they decided it would celebrate the happiness of all children.

The carps symbolize strength and courage and there’s one for every member of the family: the black one is the father, the red carp is the mother and there’s one baby fish for every child in the family. A personal fish for everyone.

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Osaka, the Best Sunday Getaway

Osaka is the perfect getaway for a sunny afternoon.

It’s very close to Kyoto, about an hour by train.

It’s full of life and interesting people.

It’s noisy and trendy.

It’s the city with strange hotel architecture (and also strange names : ‘Puppy Hotel’?!).

It’s the city of fashionistas (Amerika-mura is the well known center of youth fashion).

It’s the city of vibrant colors and over-sized flashy neon signs.

It’s the city worth returning to for many Sunday afternoons from now on.

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