We had an extensive honeymoon planned (5 countries in a little under 3 weeks) and the first stop was Tokyo. Since this was our second time to Japan we were fine with an abbreviated visit, but if you haven’t been before, it is absolutely worth spending at least one to two weeks to explore the country. With only a few days this time, we decided to check out two unique experiences that you can’t find outside Tokyo.
For Animal Lovers: Owl Cafe (Akiba Fukurou)
Although I love animals, any tourist or revenue-generating business that relies on animals runs the risk of animal exploitation and poor care. Animal cafes are extremely popular in Tokyo, and unfortunately many are poorly reviewed and have questionable practices. After reading the very positively reviewed Akiba Fukurou, an owl cafe in Akihabara, I decided to check it out and wasn’t disappointed.
Reserve an hour time slot ahead of time and be prepared with ¥2,000 cash. As of now they have 36 owls of all sizes and types – I had no idea so many different looking owls existed or how small they came. The environment was extremely clean and the rooms were very nice with small chandeliers. The owls seemed well cared for. You are requested to speak in a whisper, and owls are only allowed to be held for a certain period of time and they are given “break time” between sessions so they can rest. There was even soothing classical music to keep them (and also probably us) at ease.
You are allowed to hold two owls during the hour, and some owls even allowed you to pet them lightly on their forehead. My favorite was this little angel Sweet Potato who apparently was not a fan of kids, but seemed more than happy to sit on my arm. My second owl, Spring Onion, I was told was calm but did not like to be touched, and proceeded to fall asleep while I was holding him. The owls certainly have their own personalities: some were much more active so if you are worried about one trying to fly away or move around on your arm, you can request a calmer one.
For Art Lovers: teamLab Borderless
teamLab is a digital art collective that has not hit the US yet; they started to plan an installation in Brooklyn until they called it off. I was intrigued to check out one of their permanent exhibits in Tokyo, teamLab borderless, which is an enormous 10,000 sq m (or almost 108,000 sq ft for US folks) space with multiple digital experience exhibits and a ticket price of ¥3,200. I didn’t do much research ahead of time, wanting to experience it on my own, and was blown away.
First and foremost, as with most digital interactive exhibits, the number of people will impact your experience. Even if it’s the best exhibit you’ve ever seen, waiting in line for an hour or more dampens the mood. Get there first thing in the morning, preferably on a weekday, and purchase your ticket ahead of time. It was the best choice we made, and even then were among around 50 others as it opened for the day. I was able to go through the most beautiful exhibit “The Forest of Lamps” four times in a row (since it’s a timed exhibit) with no line. One other tip that I didn’t know beforehand: wear sneakers. In some areas, if you aren’t wearing flat shoes they will require you to borrow a pair. Set aside at least two to three hours to explore at your leisure (keep in mind there are no detailed maps of the facility so it takes a while to see everything), and prepare yourself.
Other highlights of the experience (don’t read if you want to be surprised): an interactive trampoline with lights that change as you jump, a forest that lets you boulder or climb through light up pillars, a huge expanse of light up spheres that you can walk in, around, and under, slides with lights that change as you descend (even though a lot of kids, no shame in adults joining in), a light cave that makes you feel like you are in the matrix, a light vortex room with dancing beams, and huge interactive flower rooms where images change as you walk through them. That’s not all of it either, but I’ll leave it at that.
To finish up your visit, consider checking out the “en tea house”, an in-exhibit cafe. There is a beautiful interactive light flower that follows your purchased drink of choice (I got the roasted green tea with camomile latte, which was also delicious) until it is empty.