In so many ways Japan proved to be one of the most unique places I’ve ever visited. There is an amazing mix of ancient shrines and temples, stunning natural beauty and over the top cuteness. In Japan “kawaii”, the quality of cuteness, is pervasive. Stores carry a huge variety of cute stuffed animals, stickers, key chains and clothing printed with darling images. Young women dress in all manner of cute styles from lacy little anklets to giant, floppy hair bows. In the early 2000’s the passion for cuteness and the inability to own pets due to small apartments and long work hours gave birth to the cat cafe craze. These themed cafes attracted young people who couldn’t enjoy the affection and stress reducing qualities of a pet at home. Quickly, tourists caught on to the fun and all sorts of themed cafes started popping up. Cat, rabbit, owl, goat and hedgehog cafes. Yes, hedgehog! How could we pass up the chance to play with hedgehogs?
I booked our hedgehog extravaganza online at “Harry,” the hedgehog Cafe located in Roppongi directly underneath the rabbit cafe. I’ll say even their web site is cuteness on steroids. “Try to gently feel the softness of Hedgehog. Lovely eyes, little hands and legs, fluffy stomach but tingly back, their cuteness could make you so amazed that sometimes you need to pinch yourself.” The hedgehog cafe was too popular to just drop in, so we booked for our return to Tokyo in 9 nine days. The fee was about $9.40 per 30 minutes, per person and included self-serve beverages such as tea. We could bring our own drinks(non-alcohol) and snacks, but honestly it was all about the hogs for us.
We arrived about 15 minutes early and there was already a large line of people both with and without reservations. At precisely 11:00 the approximately 8-10 of us who had reservations were called in and given our hedgehog handling instructions. Sanitize your hands with alcohol, select your hedgehog from the 12 or so in large glass habits, sit down on a stool and your hog will be brought to you in a shoe box sized container. You may pick them up, but be sure to hold them securely, over their little box.
It was time to get personal with the hedgehogs. I picked a fairly active looking little guy. Hedgehogs are nocturnal so many were curled in little balls. My son picked a sleeper and daughter chose a very active hog. The personality of our choices emerged at once. Shannon’s squirmed so much it was challenging to pick up. My son’s slept through the entire experience and that was just fine with both of them. Mine immediately pooped and peed all over me. Yikes. Hedgehog pee is stinky and I was a mess for the rest of the morning. The hogs are definitely prickly. We never actually got to tickle their “fluffy stomach.” They are not cuddly, but darn are they cute! We found that 30 minutes with them was plenty of time to acquaint us with hedgehogs and fully appreciate how adorable they are. I was cured of my desire to keep one as a pet, however. What with sleeping all day and the prickliness, I’m sticking with ordinary house cats.