The Rabbit Cafe
“Usagi no cafe, doko desu ka?” Where is the rabbit cafe?
We must have asked countless shop owners, bemused Japanese policeman and taxi drivers this question. Although news of the Rabbit Cafe may have reached the UK, it had not, it appeared, reached the neighbours of the said, Cafe of Rabbits. Why did no one know where this place was? Surely it was the most popular cafe in Harajuku.
One helpful waiter took pity on us and called the cafe for us. However, even he was confused by the directions. He politely asked if we would prefer the directions relayed to us in English or Japanese (he obviously thought I was fluent as I had asked him so nicely in Japanese where the rabbit cafe was – not the first tourist phrase you usually learn). After two diagrams, some hand directions and a stern warning to turn left at the famous shop of vegetables, we eventually found the right block, and then had to start hunting for the right building.
This cafe was in a tiny building on the second floor with a sign the size of a phone. The whole stairwell smelt of rabbit pee and it was fully booked. After three hours of searching it was a bit of an anti-climax. We definitely had more fun looking for it, as we had stumbled across some great shops and restaurants. Including this one…
No pictures of food. Not even plastic mock ups of food that the Japanese are so fond of. Just a mysterious door with a picture of meats on a stick in a fire pit. We didn’t quite pluck up the courage to try this one. Far too scary looking. But ridiculously intriguing.
But, our quest for the Rabbit Cafe was not over. There was in fact, a second rabbit cafe in the lovely trendy district of Shimo-Kitazawa. This time it only took us 1 hour of searching.
I started us off in completely the wrong direction (I had the map upside down) – which is very easy to do in Japan when there are no street names. My husband then distracted us by dragging us into a Sega gaming centre to shoot monsters. Monsters don’t shoot themselves apparently.
It was now twilight, but, finally, around a corner, there it was. We had found it. The holy grail. The Usagi cafe -Usagi no Ehon. Ah-a-a! We leapt up the rabbit print stairs and bounded towards the door. It was shut. Noooooo! Distraught, my husband squished my face up against the tiny glass window to make enquiries – being the nominated Japanese translator. What was it like? Why was it closed? What sort of bunnies were there? Did it smell of pee?
I was startled by a small Japanese face that met mine at the door. She wasn’t really closed. She was just pretending. Of course she wanted these two crazy ‘gaijin’ (foreigners) to come in to her rabbit cafe. She flipped over the sign and took us in with open arms. With my 20 characters of katakana, I ordered two glasses of grapefruit and some fluffy bunnies. She did not disappoint. In fact she was amazing.
She gave us two small bowls, one with some freshly cut grass and another with some pellets and sat us down amongst some cages with the best looking bunnies I have ever seen. This wasn’t just a cafe. This was an homage to the bunny. The whole shop was filled with bunny books, stuffed bunnies, bunny shaped plants, even bunny shaped food.
We quickly became absorbed petting ‘Chi-Chi’ a dwarf rabbit and another rabbit with an un-pronouncable name. It was as if these rabbits had never seen grass before. It was like we were their saviours. I fed while my husband petted, then we would swap over. We even got a refill of grass.
We definitely need more rabbit cafes over here – and less Starbucks. Or just more rabbits in Starbucks. It is such a lovely concept and the whole experience was delightful.