You may have heard from a friend, online article, or through social media about animal cafes in Japan. Across Japan, you can visit a cafe that has different types of animals to see, hold, or even play with for a period of time. These cafes typically charge an entry fee and an additional amount of money per hour. One of the reasons animal cafes are popular in Japan is because it can be expense to own a pet; especially, living in a big city. Here are a few different types of animal cafes to expect during your next trip.
One of the more common animal cafes contain multiple breeds of cats. Cats are scattered across the cafe sleeping, playing with each other, and visiting guests. You can usually pet and play with them. People will also go to the cafes for a drink, to read, chat with friends, and use the Wi-Fi. Definitely consider visiting one scattered across Tokyo or in another city if you are a cat lover.
Dog cafes are available in Japan for people to visit. One unique twist of dog cafes is that you may have the opportunity to take a dog on a walk (for a fee). Living in small quarters in a city makes it challenging to own a dog. These cafes give people the chance to enjoy spending time with dogs around the neighborhood.
There are owl cafes scattered across Japan. Guests can see owls roaming around the cafe while enjoying tea and other beverages. Some cafes will allow guests to hold an owl. You may see an employee holding an owl outside inviting people in for a drink or an experience.
Not to be left out, there are rabbit cafes in Japan as well. Enjoy a nice beverage or dessert surrounded by cute rabbits sleeping and hoping around.
While technically a bar, there are places to visit that have penguins living in a habitat. You can enjoy seeing the penguins having a beverage or meal. A well-known penguin bar is Penguin Bar Ikebukuro in Tokyo.
You may find other cafes and opportunities to see additional animals not mentioned. Japan is full of fun and fascinating animal cafes for locals and tourists to enjoy. Take an opportunity to have a unique experience during your next trip to Japan.
Walking through the streets of larger cities such as Tokyo and Osaka, you may have noticed large establishments with vibrantly colored window displays and rows of slot machines. The machines are actually pachinko machines and the place is called a pachinko parlor. Gambling for real money is illegal in Japan. Pachinko parlors are the closest thing to legalized gambling you will find. The way parlors work is similar to earning tickets for prizes at Chuck E. Cheese or a Putt-Putt Fun Center.
Customers at pachinko parlors purchase metal balls that are used to play the machines. The machines vary in style, gameplay, animation, and theme. In general, balls are shot to the top of a machine's play area and fall down hitting metal pins. Balls will change trajectories when they hit the pins and each other. The goal is to get the metal balls into different slots or gates to earn additional attempts and prize payouts. The prize payouts a player earns are in the form of additional metal balls to either use in the machines or exchange for actual prizes.
Customers can exchange the metal balls received as prize payouts for items offered in the pachinko parlor. For example, a customer can exchange a certain amount of balls for a microwave or other item. The parlors cannot give actual money. However, there is usually a place near the parlor that takes prizes won by players and exchanges them for real money. You can think about it as winning a microwave and then selling it to a pawn shop for half of its estimated retail value.
Travelers are welcome to visit and play pachinko in the parlors. However, they are not family friendly as children are typically barred from entering. If you would like to learn more about pachinko, read through Japan Visitor's guide.
While traveling across Japan, it is highly likely you will step into at least one temple or shrine. The architecture, history, culture, and natural beauty of temples and shrines make them great places to visit. There are a few rules you may not be familiar with that are common across the country. It is important to follow the rules to help preserve these religious sites and allow others to have a pleasant experience.
Take Shoes Off Before Entering a Building
This may seem basic, but it is not always obvious to visitors that you are expected to remove footwear before entering buildings. There is an area you can take shoes off and put them in a storage bin or leave to the side. Slippers are typically provided by the site for visitors to use while touring the interior. It is acceptable to walk around in socks if your feet are too big to fit into slippers. If you wear a men's size 10 or larger shoe, you should plan to wear thicker crew socks as a precaution.
Follow the Guide Arrows and Path
It is important to travel along the designated route inside buildings to help keep the flow of foot traffic moving. You may be asked to not stop along the way if the site is very busy and crowded. In addition, staying on pathways prevents damage to the grounds and floorboards not protected for visitors.
Do Not Take Photos Where Prohibited
There may be signs posted asking visitors to refrain from taking flash photos or pictures in general. One reason for this is to protect paintings and other art from damage and deterioration due to the intensity of a camera flash. Another is to prevent traffic from slowing down due to everyone taking a picture of the same thing. Third, temples and shrines want to prevent pictures taken of treasured artifacts and encourage gift shop sales. Regardless of the reasoning, you should respect the signs posted.
You Can Participate in Various Cultural Practices
When visiting a temple or shrine, you may see other visitors breathe incense or take a sip from flowing water with a wooden cup or other instrument. It is acceptable to follow their lead by saying a prayer and also partaking in these cultural practices.
Ask About Shuinchou Stamps Before Taking a Tour
You should ask how each temple and shrine stamps a shuinchou book or look for signs upon entering, The reason is because some places are busy and will collect them at the beginning of a tour to complete. Others may give a pre-made insert to put in a book. The most enjoyable experience is watching someone create the stamp, but this is not always the case. Keep in mind that not all temples and shrines provide stamp opportunities for a shuinchou.
Japan is not the only country that has a cherry blossom season. The Tidal Basin around the Jefferson Memorial in Washington, D.C. is another such place. This area is full of cherry blossom trees given to the United States by Japan. Each spring, the blossoms go into full bloom for locals and tourists to enjoy. The timing various depending on the weather just like in Japan. An annual festival known as the National Cherry Blossom Festival is held around the blooming time period. The festival hosts multiple activities and events in the heart of Washington D.C. The history of how the cherry blossom trees were donated and more about the National Cherry Blossom Festival can be found here. Another great resource for blooming forecasts is the full bloom watch for Washington D.C. found here. This site gives updates on the latest information for peak blooming and previous season information. The average full bloom time period is similar to that of Japan. You should expect the peak bloom in Washington D.C. to occur, on average, between the last week of March and the first week of April. It is quite the spectacular and you should expect a plethora of tourists and traffic during the peak bloom period.
Tokyo is a huge city. When factoring in population density and land area, it is one of the largest cities in the world. Seeing all of Tokyo in one trip to Japan is an unreasonable expectation. It is important to narrow down activity options and think about what are the highest priorities for you. Making a short list will help guide you as to what area of Tokyo is the best fit for you.
Follow the Narita Express
One of the easiest ways to decide where to stay in Tokyo is to pick a stop along the Narita Express (NEX). The express train from Narita Airport drops passengers off at major areas of Tokyo including Shibuya, Shinjuku, Tokyo Station, Ikebukuro, and Yokohama. There are plenty of lodging options around these stations. Getting back on the NEX to take a flight out of Tokyo is also convenient when staying near a station on the NEX route.
Stay Along the Yamanote Line
One of the best JR Rail transportation options is the Yamanote Line that runs in a full circle around Tokyo. This line stops at over 20 different destinations including some of the biggest tourism areas. Staying near the line simplifies navigating the complex transportation network of Tokyo. You can easily access the Yamanote Line by stopping at Tokyo Station after riding the NEX from Narita Airport.
Pick a Neighborhood to Explore
There are a few neighborhoods that cater to nightlife, shopping, and other interests for tourists. Do you want to experience a bar scene and some night life? Shinjuku or Roppongi may be of interest to you. If shopping is a high priority, then you may be interested in the Ginza area. There are certainly benefits to staying in a particular place such as saving travel time and close proximity for carrying shopping bags.
Other things to consider when choosing a location to stay is price, amenities, and even how many people are traveling with you. Also note that public transportation does not run all night long and taxis are expensive. Picking an area to make your home base can enhance your experience and allow time for more of your favorite activities.