#2082 | Tales from Tokyo: Harry’s Hedgehog Cafe, Harajuku

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Tokyo, Japan
All pictures are taken on a Nikon D750, lenses – nikon 35 f/1.8 and 85 f/1.8

So I was in Tokyo in April on a work trip for Klook Travel, with my sister along as my photographer/videographer, also her specialisation in university. Her first time in Japan, so the whole trip was a bam bam bam nonstop slew of scheduled eye-opening amazement for her, but not much in the way of blocks of free time. We did have a bout of unscheduled time the morning before we flew out though, and this aspiring filmmaker turned to me with a sort of plea in her eyes, saying that her life’s Dream was to see a hedgehog live. After laughing at her for an hour – I mean, who am I to ask about whether her life dream should be, yknw, succeeding in her film career or anything like that? – we did some googling, made some plans, and rocked up early in the morning at Harry’s Hedgehog Cafe.

I lie. It opens at noon. We rocked up at noon. It just felt early because it had been a long and exhausting(ly fun) trip and we were at the tail end of it. Anyway.

People online often recommend making an advance appointment, but I personally think this isnt necessary if you’re going on a 1. weekday and 2. during non-peak hours. This is because reservations are for minimum an hour, as opposed to half an hour blocks for walk-in, and an hour is a lot of time to be staring at a bunch of spikey hamsters. And, hedgehog cafes are expensive, dude. They’re far more expensive than cat or owl cafes in Japan, going at a rate of about $15 per half hour.

There are two big hedgehog cafes in Tokyo, both under the Harry’s Hedgehog Cafe chain. One is in Roppongi, and I hear that one requires a reservation two or three days in advance! We went to the one in Harajuku, a short walk down from the Meiji-jingu shrine.

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Vending machines for your drinks

Your entry ticket comes with a free drink which you have to redeem yourself from the vending machines at the back of the cafe. Unlike most pet cafes, hedgehog cafes smell pretty normal – I suppose its because hedgehogs themselves dont smell like much. The space was pretty big and clean, but it filled up really quickly so I recommend going once it opens if you dont want to make a reservation!

The staff kind of give you a short briefing about how to hold a hedgehog and what to do, but its nothing too elaborate. There’s the option of buying mealworms to feed them (ugh) which my sister went for because, again, she freaking loves hedgehogs. I do not feel strongly about hedgehogs so when she offered me a worm, thinking she was doing me this huge favour by letting me feed them with the worms she paid for, she was pretty surprised when I gave her an empathetic no thanks.

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There are also gloves lying around which I recommend using because those things are pokey.

This is not my first experience with hedgehogs. I must admit I’ve never been very keen on them because the first time I saw one it was in the basement of a mall in JB, at a shop which sells illegally imported animals including sugar gliders and snakes. Those hedgehogs – kept in a ratchet looking cardboard box – looked weak and kind of sickly to be honest, and I got a bit upset looking at them because they looked like they were about to expire any moment. The second time I saw a hedgehog it was last year in Tokyo, when a little girl was walking hers in the park. That one was significantly more healthy, but it kept running away from her and she was basically scolding it her entire walk. Which was pretty funny to watch, but you know, didn’t really do much for me in terms of endearing me to the hedgehog.

These hedgehogs, the ones at Harry’s, were much easier to be around. They weren’t as irritable, looked like they were reasonably healthy, and if they didn’t want to play with you, they just went to sleep. Simple!

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They also burrow into your boobs because they like to hide. #pervhog

I think because their day job is literally being cute with humans day in day out, they’re not really shy with people either. I held one and it ran up my arm and into my sleeve. I wanted to die. But on the other hand, it didn’t shit on me, which is what it did when my sister picked it up. HA!

The ones at Harry’s come in all shapes and sizes. I’ve only ever seen hedgehogs that are more or less half-palm sized, but there were some pretty colossal ones in Harry’s. Picking them up was like doing a weight lift or something. It was hilarious. Those also sleep a lot, and they’re funny because their limbs are all way disproportionate in relation to their bodies. What are hedgehogs even?!

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This fat hedgehog looked seriously grumpy next to my sister. Seriously my sister is going through that phase of post-teenhood where she’s like perpetually looking uninterested in everything, so I have literally never seen her look this harmless or happy in about eight years. This picture made me laugh so hard you guys!

Our half hour was up relatively quick. The staff keep an eye on everyone who comes in so they’ll let you know when your time is up, and if you stay beyond that they charge you per half hour block. We had a flight to catch so we didn’t stay on, but I do think half hour was a pretty decent amount of time to be spending in there, especially since in quantifiable terms that’s fifty cents a minute.

Thinking about it after leaving, I’m still not sure how I feel about the hedgehog cafe. I suppose it’s the same feeling I have with all animal cafes – it’s not that I’m a huge animals-should-be-wild-and-free activist, hell, I have a pet cat at home. I suppose it’s just that at animal cafes, how manhandled the animals end up really depend on how strict the staff are, and the staff are often caught between doing the right thing and wanting to keep customers happy. The owl cafes i’ve been to in Osaka and Tokyo have been pretty strict about this – the Osaka Owl Cafe i blogged about two years ago would only let you hold an hour under their supervision and for a very short period of time – you’d pretty much have to be content having a coffee in close proximity to some owls and staring at them while you sipped. Cat cafes are similar – you’re only allowed to pet, but never to pick up or carry the cats. This is standard throughout all cat cafes I’ve been to – in Japan, Korea, Singapore.

But I’ve seen pictures on instagram where people manhandle owls for a picture in other owl cafes, and in the hedgehog cafe, I saw a couple of people try to flip the hedgehogs around into a cute position even though the hedgehogs obviously didn’t want to be on their backs. The staff didn’t step in until people started carrying the hedgehogs around – you’re only supposed to hold them above their glass boxes so if you drop them they end up back in their box. Maybe the cafe was too big and they couldn’t really see what you were doing, but hmm.. to be fair, the two girls in charge of that shift also looked like they were pretty shy to me, so perhaps they were part timers and didn’t know how to enforce the rules? In any case, I wouldn’t say that anyone there was causing the hedgehogs any pain, but some tourists were definitely annoying a couple of hedgehogs more than once. So yeah, mixed feelings.

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Anyway, if you want to head there regardless, there’s one branch in Harajuku and one in Roppongi! I’d still say it’s a pretty interesting experience, but also – to be a responsible guest when you’re there, and treat the hedgehogs the way you’d want your own pet to be treated by strangers 🙂

Harry’s Hedgehog Cafe
1-13-21 Jingumae | 4F, Shibuya 150-0001, Tokyo Prefecture
+81 3-3404-1180


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All pictures are taken on a Nikon D750, lenses – nikon 35 f/1.8 and 85 f/1.8

x
Jem

This was part of a Tokyo work trip with Klook – a travel activities booking site

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