Let's face it: I'm a single gal in Toronto with single gal friends. I see cats all the freaking time. So as the cat-cafe concept jumped shores from Japan to as far as Montreal and Melbourne, the idea of spending valuable time in Tokyo petting them seemed increasingly... banal.
Then I was told about a rabbit cafe on the border of Harajuku-Shibuya, which sounded pretty cute. I could totally do rabbits, even though I've seen many of them in my time, albeit at a distance, darting around small-town Ontario, often too hyper and too quick to be caught with the camera I've unfurled a second too late.
The awkwardly named Ra.a.g.f (Rabbit and Grow Fat) cafe works on the same principle as its feline counterpart -- pay a cover charge to sip a beverage, hang out with adorable animals. The particular cafe is not your standard storefront deal -- it's tucked up on the third floor of a narrow building, in a quiet alley, steps away from a major intersection in bustling Harajuku. Upon entering, you're immediately greeted by a line of rabbit cages, and I guarantee you'll probably shriek at the sight before greeted by one of the bunny caretakers, who, by the way, speaks only enough English to say, "Please remove your shoes and enter." The cafe is small -- a cozy, gated area, which looks almost like a nursery play space with a bright spring-like colour scheme, tiny kid tables, and at the time of my visit, a toddler, gleefully running after a bunny and squealing.
My friend Jacinta and I step into the tiny gated area and sit down, while a girl zips over to us and goes over the English version of the menu, stating the rates and available drinks, all of which are complimentary at an all-you-can chug service. She quickly goes over the rules: We are to select a rabbit to play with, and it must stay out for a minimum of 15 minutes. Only one is allowed out at a time, as they're prone to fighting. She asks us how long we'd like to stay, and being travellers on a budget, we both figure 30 minutes at ¥700 ($6USD) will suffice. The clock is set. We opt for juice, order a bowl of veggie ribbons to bribe the rabbits, and rush over to the cages to give a new bunny some human-love-play time.
The pressure is immediate to make The Right Choice. From a pool of 20 or so rabbits, and with time ticking, we had to figure things out fast. In a panic, we point to a tiny, seemingly timid rabbit in the top left cage, and clasp our mouths over our hands. Too adorable.
Well, not really. Turns out this little bunny is a feisty little hell-raiser, which is what I've known of rabbits to begin with, so it shouldn't be a surprise. It leaps out of the caretaker's hands and rips across the perimeter of the space like she's just taken a hit of cocaine. Dangling the carrot ribbons in the air does nothing.
After seeing us on our hands and knees beckoning Miss ADHD with radishes, the staff pieced together a brief, "She doesn't like to eat." No shit. So after a few minutes of running around and capturing only one still photo of the thing mowing down on its own feces, I just sit in one place and swing my head back and forth as if watching a hyper speed tennis match, suffering a slight bit of whiplash as a result. The thing won't stop bouncing around, made slightly worse by the trails of poop nuggets deposited at our feet (these ones, she does not consume). Nearing the 15-minute mark, we are visibly worn, like babysitters passed out on a couch after caring for a friend's kid who we secretly despise. We are ready for a switch.
We learn from our coked-up bunny experience. We ain't fools. So when the staff scoop her up and ask for our next choice, we glance at our full rabbit snack bowl and request a "slow, tired bunny that likes to eat... a lot." Almost immediately, she nods, bends down to a lower cage, and -- if she doesn't grunt, she should -- drags out a rabbit with a body close to the size of a mammoth and a face so chubby, its eyes are reduced to slits. We are in love. Our voluptuous new friend is exactly as requested -- a lazy, lumbering sloth who goes to lengths to devour our entire rabbit snack bowl, and he does. THIS IS WHAT WE CAME FOR. AND WE LOVE IT.
At this point, our 30 minutes are up, and despite my itchy eyes and swollen throat indicating a newly discovered bout of rabbit allergies, we both aren't ready to go, sign up for an additional half hour, and spend extended time with the glorious, unreal Godzilla-sized rabbit. As new customers file into the cafe, we play fair, give them private bonding time, happily waste our remaining minutes opening cages and petting our new rabbit buddies, and leave the cafe even more giddy than we entered it.
PS. As you can see from the photo above, rabbits are available for purchase and, yes, even rent, which seems pretty entertaining in my head, but who am I to judge? We all get a little lonely once in a while, and I'm sure if I lived in Tokyo, I'd surely find a reason to borrow one for a few hours, too.
RATES (drinks included)
30 minutes - ¥700
60 minutes - ¥1,100
Additional 30 minutes - ¥550
Rabbit snacks - ¥150
MON-FRI - 12:00-19:30 (19:00 last entry)
SAT-SUN + HOLIDAYS - 11:00-20:00 (19:30 last entry)
Jingumae 6-14-15, Maison Harajuku 3F