Tokyo owl cafe launches crowdfunding project to maintain store amid pandemic

TOKYO — As restrictions on travel to and from Japan due to the prolonged coronavirus pandemic take a toll on tourist-reliant businesses, an owl cafe in the Akihabara district of the capital’s Chiyoda ward has launched a crowdfunding campaign to help maintain the store and protect its 36 owls.
Owl Cafe Akiba Fukurou Tokyo was established in August 2014 by Shusaku Yabe and his wife, who took care of owls as a hobby. The store became a place for owl lovers to gather and spend time with the animals that are originally from various places around the globe. The cafe was even selected by Trip Advisor, an internationally influential travel website, as the most popular tour site in Japan by travel enthusiasts in 2019 and 2020.
As customers need to make a reservation ahead of their visit, the cafe can only welcome 50 to 60 people a day. “Of our customers, 80 to 90% were inbound tourists,” said Yabe. Until now, about 100,000 people from at least 90 countries have enjoyed spending time with the owls at the store.
However, the cafe has seen a drastic decrease in the number of customers since February when the impact of the coronavirus began to appear. The store temporarily closed in April and May and reopened in June, but the cafe still has few inbound tourists and the number of domestic tourists has not recovered. “Nowadays, the best situation is if 10 people in close vicinity to us visit in a week,” Yabe says.
In order to keep looking after the 36 owls, with unique names such as Last Samurai, Mr. President and Sweet Potato, it costs nearly 1 million yen per month for food, including mice, and rent, among other expenses. As the cafe’s sales continue to dwindle, it has received many heartwarming messages from foreign tourists who have visited the store in the past. One of them wrote that they would like to visit Tokyo and see the owls again as soon as possible.
In response, the cafe launched a crowdfunding project in late August to keep the store running. Though donations have surpassed the initial target amount, cafe workers are still anxious about the unforeseen recovery of inbound tourism.
Yabe is calling for more support, saying, “We have raised the owls like family members since they were babies. We want to protect this store, no matter what, until the day everyone who is waiting to see them again can come and visit.”
For further inquiries, please access Owl Cafe Akiba Fukurou Tokyo’s official website / (in English).
(Japanese original by Tadahiko Mori, Staff Writer)