When I was a student, I was friends with a few Japanese exchange students who declared everything they thought was cute to be “kawai’i”.
So, when in Tokyo – other than “Hello Kitty” or Doraemon-themed establishments, what are other kawaii things to do? In Japan, and in other places in the world, some of the “cute” things to do are to go to cafes that specialize in not only coffee and tea, but also in furry animals like cats and bunnies.
In Tokyo, I found something slightly different – a cafe where you can play with spiky little animal? But should you visit Harry Hedgehog Cafe in Tokyo.
What is a hedgehog cafe?
Basically, it’s exactly what you think it is. You walk in, pay for an experience with a hedgehog, get a drink to enjoy while you’re there, and perhaps some food like meal worms to feed your hedgehog.
You take a few pictures, and then you leave.
Is Harry Hedgehog Cafe a tourist trap?
Harry Hedgehog Cafe is all the rage in Tokyo right now. This particular spot is about a one-minute walk from the Roppongi Tokyo subway station.
To start, the premise of the Harry Hedgehog cafe is to enjoy your delicious coffee with an unusual companion – a hedgehog. Apparently, it makes glugging down a coffee or tea a lot more relaxing.
And I cannot disagree!
Yes. Absolutely! This Tokyo cafe is most definitely, positively, without question, 100% a typical tourist trap.
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.
We were all foreign visitors and we were excited to go inside. To do so, you’ll likely have to put your name on the waiting list. It’s kinda busy.
Sort of like we were waiting for a table at a Michelin-starred restaurant, only for a quirky Japanese cafe.
Want to buy a hedgehog from a cafe?
A few years back, we happened to be in Delaware staying with a local Counchsurfer. That guy happened to own a hedgehog.
I wanted one. Though I never did get one. And that’s because hedgehogs require special care. They’re pretty delicate animals.
So I can’t say that I think this is very responsible to go to a cafe and take home the hedgehog you only knew for as long as it took you to drink a coffee.
In fact, it’s downright irresponsible. But if I fell in love, I could have bought a hedgehog here – or any of the animals in the café, to be honest.
They even have a price list for the hedgehogs. Here are the prices offered in Roppongi Japan:
Again, I’m pretty sure offering for sale animals that people only have a coffee break worth of experience with is not the best idea.
But there you go.
It wasn’t until much later on that I discovered you can make a reservation far in advance right Harry hedgehog cafe’s web site.
Of course, that comes at a price – almost double – about $20! The site obviously caters to deep-pocketed foreign visitors.
But hey! YOLO! And as I said before, it is a tourist trap!
Luckily, I was alone, so my wait was shorter than others. I squeezed in between other visitors to enter the cafe (which is also a Tokyo bunny cafe, if you prefer rabbits).
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.
Harry hedgehog cafe rules
A woman at the front desk explained the cafe rules in English:
- 30 minutes is all you get to spend in the cafe
- You can only pick one animal (most guests want hedgehogs, but there are bunnies, geckos, lizards, and other small reptiles)
- No switching animals with others, even to take other pictures of hedgehog
- Animals must remain in the box, except to hold for just a moment
- You can make yourself a cup of (instant) coffee or tea located across the room on a small table
I signed the waiver. The cost for enjoying the coffee (and the hedgehog companionship) was ¥ 1080 – about $11.
And I could take as many hedgehog photos as I wanted.
The entire circumference of the café was lined with terrariums full of animals. Looking around, I noticed that many of the hedgehogs were asleep (Well, they are nocturnal, after all!).
I wanted the white hedgehog that looked pretty active!
The Hedgehog cafe experience
I sat down while she got my hedgehog, who I named Pokey. She put him in a shoebox to get ready for me. My 30 minutes started.
I quickly made myself an instant coffee and took Pokey out of the box for my moment of holding him.
But ouch! Pokey was, well, pokey. Also, he pooped on me. Yep. 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, figuring he probably got fed many times a day anyway.
Like the majority of visitors, my 30 minutes were filled with videos, taking pictures, asking others to take your pictures, and selfies.
Oh, and there was almost no coffee involved. Basically, I sipped what I bought in a hurry right before I left. Yes, it was time to say goodbye to Pokey.
To be quite honest, he seemed quite happy to go back to his corner for a nap anyway.
Are hedgehog cafes ethical?
This is a good question and one I considered before I went to Harry Hedgehog Cafe. I felt mostly OK with this because my understanding is that the animals here are well cared for.
They are on a decent rotation that allows them lots of time away from cafe guests.
Staff are everywhere, and if you even so much as break a rule or handle a hedgehog improperly, your hedgehog experience is over.
And the cafe opens mid-day, limiting the animals’ exposure to daylight.
That said, hedgehogs are nocturnal and solitary creatures. Here, they’re exposed to daylight in a crowded cafe with lots of other hedgehogs.
So, perhaps “improper” is a better word than “unethical,” but there you are.
Unethical is relative, considering that Tokyo also has an owl cafe with chained owls that were domesticated forcibly. There’s this penguin cafe that exists in a smoke-filled bar. And overcrowded cat cafes have been closed for ethical concerns.
So yes, ethical is relative, and you need to decide for yourself if a hedgehog cafe is ethical.
I thought the place was well run, if not perfect.
Other things to do in Tokyo
Post updated March 19, 2018.
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