Japanese hipsters always seem to be finding the newest trend and then taking it up a notch. You want to put spikes in your skull? They go bagel-shaped saline bubbles. You put some ornamentation on your truck? They make theirs look like some sort of third line/high school marching band in truck form. And that whole “put-a-bird-on-it” thing? Well, why attract customers to your business with bird stencils when you can put an actual bird on the couch instead? Especially if those birds are owls, a.k.a. by far the hippest bird right now.
The latest trend hitting Tokyo’s streets is the owl café, where patrons can have a warm cuppa while observing these majestic birds … Called “fukurou cafes” in Japanese, these places offer owl-themed food and drink, and became popular last year since the opening of Fukurou no Mise (“Owl Shop”) and Tori no Iru Cafe (“The Cafe with Birds”). More have opened since then, including Fukurou Sabou (“Owl Teahouse”), Owl Family, and Crew.
And, yes, in some of these, under certain circumstances, you can touch the owls. It’s sort of like a petting zoo for adults who for some reason can’t just get a cat.
Is this problematic? Yes. Treehugger:
[T]here have been understandable concerns from animal rights advocates, who believe that these supervised, “pet-rental” businesses are detrimental to the animals. On the other hand, however, these establishments must obtain official permits, and follow strict regulations for animal welfare, with some cafés working with strays, and actively raising awareness about the proper treatment of animals
But let’s face it. This is really just about touching an owl. Because they’re cool. Even though they probably would rather just be left alone.