When I was a student at Iowa State, I befriended a few Japanese girls who were exchange students. They seemed to declare everything as ‘kawai’i’ – basically, that means “cute.” So, when in Tokyo – other than “Hello Kitty” or Doraemon-themed establishments, what are other kawaii things to do? How about a hedgehog cafe?
The hot ”animal cafe” buzz in Tokyo is Harry Hedgehog café (as well as bunny cafe), which is about a minute walking from the Roppongi Tokyo subway station. To start, the premise of the Harry Hedgehog cafe is to enjoy your delicious coffee with an unusual escort – a hedgehog friend.
Is Harry Hedgehog Cafe a tourist trap?
This cafe Japan is definitely a typical tourist trap. How do you define a tourist trap? I ask myself the following questions.
1. Do I want to visit/do it? (Yes)
2. Do I make sacrifices to get there? (Yes)
3. Am I glad I did? (Yes)
4. Is it overpriced? (Yes)
5. Would I recommend the place to others? (No)
6. Would others listen to my recommendation and suggestions? (No)
Back to question 1: When I arrived at Harry Hedgehog Cafe, there was a line in front of a small building next to the staircase to the second floor. I knew right away that this was the place – the Tokyo hedgehog cafe. All of us – we were all foreign visitors – were excited to enter this Tokyo cafe. We needed to put our names on the waiting list. It was like we were waiting to get into a Michelin-starred restaurant, only for a Japanese cafe.
Plus, If I fell in love, I could have purchased my animal, or any of these guys in the café/pet shop. How much are hedgehogs? Here are the hedgehog prices offered in Roppongi Japan:
By the way, later on, I discovered that you could make a reservation far in advance on Harry hedgehog cafe’s web site – for almost double the price, Y2000 (about USD 20)! The site obviously caters towards foreign visitors. But hey! YOLO! It is a tourist trap!
Luckily it was faster for a single walk-in – and I was squeezed in between other visitors to enter the cafe, which is also a Tokyo bunny cafe. After about 40 minutes, I finally got to go upstairs to a small space about a size of normal living room that serves as a Japanese coffee shop. Here’s a rough video at the hedgehog cafe:
Harry hedgehog cafe rules
A girl at the front desk greeted me, and explained the cafe rules in English:
- I only have 30 minutes to spend in the cafe.
- I can only pick one animal (most guests want hedgehogs, but there are bunnies, geckos, lizards, and other small reptiles).
- I can’t switch animals with others, even to take other pictures of hedgehog.
- I can’t take my animal out of the box, except to hold for just a moment.
- I can make myself a cup of instant coffee or tea located across the room on a small table.
Agreed! I signed the waiver. The cost for enjoying the coffee (and the hedgehog companionship) was ¥ 1080 – about USD 11. And I can take as many hedgehog images as I want.
The girl at the desk then asked me which animal companion I wanted. The entire circumference of the café was lined with aquariums full of animals. Looking around, I noticed that many of the hedgehogs were asleep (Well duh, they’re nocturnal anyway!). I wanted the white hedgehog that looked pretty active!
I sat down, while she got my hedgehog (I named him Pokey) and she put him in a shoebox to get ready for me. My 30 minutes started. I quickly made myself an instant coffee and lifted up Pokey with love. Kawai’i! But ouch, Pokey was, well, pokey. Also, he pooped on me. I was crapped on by a hedgehog. I now have a unique travel experience that you probably haven’t had!
Optional: you can buy food for your animal (I didn’t).
Like the majority of visitors, my 30 minutes were filled with videos, taking cafe pictures, asking others to take your pictures, and selfies. Oh, and seriously, almost no coffee. Basically, I sipped in a hurry right before I left. Yes, it was time to say goodbye to Pokey. And honestly, he seemed quite happy to go back to his corner for a nap anyway.
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