The Asian reporter. (Portland, Or.) 1991-current, February 02, 2015, Page Page 4, Image 4

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February 2, 2015
It’s a hoot hanging out with owls at Tokyo café
By Linda Lombardi
The Associated Press
OKYO — In the U.S., hanging out
in a café with animals is such an
exotic concept that people can’t get
enough of it. A pop-up cat café in New York
last year had lines down the block. Online
reservations for another Manhattan cat
café are almost fully booked more than two
months ahead.
But in Japan, cat cafés are just the start.
You can hang out in rabbit cafés or have
coffee in Tokyo with two goats. And you’re
not limited to domestic animals. You can
also spend an hour at a café holding a great
horned owl.
Judging by how complicated it was to get
a reservation at Tokyo’s Fukuro no Mise
(“Shop of Owls,”), the owl cafés are just as
much of a hoot as cat cafés.
To get a spot, visitors are supposed to
line up an hour before Fukuro no Mise
opens. But when I showed up an hour
early, I was lucky to get the last seat for a
session two hours later. There are no
refunds on the 2,000 yen ($17) fee. If you’re
late, you lose your slot.
Inside, I was given a list of detailed
English instructions. For example, only
touch the owls on the head or back. And
while the owls are very tame, “they can’t be
potty trained like dogs. So please be
generous when they potty on you!” The
woman in charge also gave a long talk and
demonstration in Japanese before
allowing each guest to hold a bird.
The owls come in various sizes and
species, from tiny to quite large, including
a great horned owl with large sharp claws
and impressive beak. Each bird has a
tether around one foot, which you hold in
your hand as they perch on your arm.
Sleek and clear-eyed, the owls seem calm
despite the fact that the small room is
The attentive staff will place the owl on
your shoulder or head if you like (I declined
in light of the warning about the lack of
potty training). Staff can also help if your
owl starts to flap. Raising your hand in the
air usually settles them down, but
apparently I was holding my arm wrong,
so a worker repositioned it. If you’ve had
enough and want to just watch everyone
else’s owls, they’ll relieve you of the bird.
Photography is forbidden in some of the
oddest places in Japan, but this isn’t one of
them. No flash is allowed (and no video)
but posting a shot of yourself on social
media holding an owl is clearly a goal for
many visitors.
Unlike some other animal cafés in
Japan, this place is only nominally a café.
There’s no food but a small drink is
included (alcohol costs extra). The drink
arrives covered in plastic wrap, decorated
with a magic marker illustration of an owl.
But no one pays attention to their beverage
until the final activity, which involves
distributing souvenirs. Each item is held
up and guests raise their hand if they want
it. If too many people raise hands, winners
are chosen by playing rock-paper-scissors,
which seems to be the same in Japan as it
is in the U.S. Souvenirs included a photo
book, cellphone charms, chopsticks, and a
cloth decorated with owls.
If owls aren’t enough to satisfy your
longing to commune with birds of prey,
there’s also a Falconers Café in Mitaka,
the same area of Tokyo as the Ghibli
Museum. When it’s not busy, the only
birds there will be the owner’s, four Harris
A SOARING SUCCESS. Owls are seen at Fukuro
no Mise, which means “Shop of Owls,” in Tokyo. The
café allows visitors to hold and interact with owls. It’s
one of a number of cafés in Japan where visitors can
spend time with animals ranging from rabbits to goats.
(AP Photo/Linda Lombardi, File)
hawks and a peregrine falcon that can’t be
petted, only watched. But hawk owners
also come to the shop with their birds, and
some may allow you to touch them. This
one’s a proper café, with dishes on an
English menu named after raptors,
including Harris Curry and Eagle Ginger
There are other owl cafés in Japan. All
have different hours and procedures, so it’s
best to have a Japanese speaker help
navigate websites and make calls. Fukuro
no Mise also had limited and somewhat
erratic hours, so you’ll want to check its
website — also in Japanese — for current
And while the café is off the beaten
tourist path, it’s easy to find from Tokyo
Metro Tsukishima Station’s exit 10 — just
cross and head up the street lined with
oddly pruned trees and you’ll see its
storefront on the right, covered with
posters in Japanese and English
explaining the reservation system. Once
you have your reservation, if there’s time,
you can head up to the next cross street
and stroll an old shopping street with lots
of monjayaki restaurants. Monja is the
Tokyo version of okonomiyaki, the meat,
seafood, and vegetable pancake that’s
cooked on a griddle on your table.
The café suggests English speakers
come on Fridays when they have English-
speaking staff, but I had no difficulty on a
different day.
Meet Coco: Potentially China’s next Li Na
By Justin Bergman
The Associated Press
ELBOURNE, Australia — China has begun its
search for the next Li Na, and one of the juniors
with the talent to replace the country’s two-time
Grand Slam champion may speak better English than she
does Chinese.
Xu Shilin, who just turned 17 and goes by the English
name Coco, was the first Chinese girl to be No. 1 in the
world junior rankings and won the gold medal at the
Youth Olympic Games last year. She has also told the
Chinese media that her goal is to win a Grand Slam title
before she’s 20.
“It is a goal and a dream. Of course, I’m working toward
that,” she said at the Australian Open, where she was the
top seed in the girl’s singles draw before losing in the third
round. “I think anything is possible.”
Xu’s rise has been unique compared with the previous
generation of Chinese players because her parents
decided to develop her talents outside China’s state-run
sports system, choosing instead to move to Florida where
she could train at top private academies.
Such freedoms were only made possible due to Li Na
and a few other current players, who broke free from the
state system years ago and were allowed to manage their
own careers and keep their own prize money. This paved
the way for the next generation of players to choose their
own paths.
Xu’s parents made a big decision when they saw how
much talent she had at age eight. Her father, Xu Yang,
sold the small tennis club he owned in Guangdong
province and moved the family to Florida for nearly six
“Her father rolled the dice,” said Xu’s manager Terry
Rhoads, who is managing director of Shanghai-based
sports consulting firm Zou Marketing. “They didn’t live
well. They struggled.”
Because Xu was talented, she was invited to train at
HOT COCO. China’s Xu Shilin serves while playing the Czech Repub-
lic’s Miriam Kolodziejova and Marketa Vondrousova during the junior
girls’ doubles semifinal at the Australian Open tennis championship in
Melbourne, Australia. Xu, who just turned 17 and goes by the English
name Coco, was the first Chinese girl to be No. 1 in the world junior
rankings and won the gold medal at the Youth Olympic Games last
year. (AP Photo/Shuji Kajiyama)
several different academies and began to climb the junior
rankings in the U.S., attracting the interest of the United
States Tennis Association, Rhoads said. Instead of having
Xu play for the U.S., however, the family decided it was
time to return to China.
It wasn’t an easy transition at first because Xu’s
Mandarin had become so rusty, she was afraid to speak at
times. But she’s becoming more comfortable now and has
already attracted a number of sponsors.
Rhoads compares her career trajectory with that of
Japanese star Kei Nishikori, who also lived in and trained
in the U.S. for many years.
“If you ask me, this is what China needs to do with a
bunch of the boys,” he said. “Coco got tough. She grew up.
She saw how difficult it was for her parents.”
Other top juniors are taking similar paths, choosing to
train at private academies in China where they receive
coaching, education, room and board, and travel expenses
in exchange for a percentage of future prize money earned.
Continued on page 9
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