Owl Family Hakata

Owl cafes are becoming more and more popular! I kinda feel like "cafe" is the wrong term with some of the owl ones though, because at least with Owl Family Hakata, the experience was less about food/drink than it was about just being around the owls. While they do speak a little bit of English, I imagine if you are fluent in Japanese you could talk in length to the staff about each owl's story and personality.
I had a good experience at a cat cafe in Fukuoka so I was interested in going to one of the owl cafes. I know a lot of people are skeptical of animal cafes, and I was skeptical too before going to this one - we've probably all been to petting zoos/actual zoos where the animals looked listless and miserable. But from what I could tell, the owls looked very well taken care of here. The space is very clean and cheery, with staff that is passionate about their owls. The owls were previously raised in captivity, not captured from the wild. During the day's schedule they are rotated to prevent over-handling, and the sleeping owls are kept in a different spot from the active ones.
Very, very tired.
Well, this one's not.
So tiny!

Anyway, the basics of Owl Family: you can make reservations online, which is highly suggested, but you could also try to see if there's any open spots depending on the time of day - it can get pretty popular with locals and tourists alike though, so walk-ins aren't guaranteed. The cafe itself is located within short walking distance of Canal City Mall and Kushida Shrine. In my opinion, it has one of the CUTEST logos ever! Look for the two orange owls, it's kind of an ordinary-looking storefront otherwise.
Photo credit: https://mantaiko.wordpress.com/2014/10/09/a-hoot-of-a-time/

Story time: my friend and I got stuck in traffic trying to get there from our other engagement across town, so we were about 5 minutes late to our reservation, but it didn't appear to be an issue as we were apparently the only 2 people slated for that time block! (It was the last one of the day, at 7:00 pm, so maybe that helped). Any other time though, it's really best to show up right at your appointed hour, and wait outside to be called in.
So when you are first called inside, you'll be taken to an upstairs loft where you will get your drink, and a staff member will give a demo for the first few minutes about what to do and what not to do to the owls there. The demo is mostly in Japanese, but there is a large diagram on the wall with lots of pictures and some English text - our staff member also gestured a lot, so it's all fairly self explanatory. After you wipe your hands with disinfectant, you get to go back downstairs and are introduced to your owl friends for the next 50 minutes! Because they're rotated, you never know which owls will be there.
This guy was clingy.

Some of the owls can be a little flighty, so each one will come with a sort of leash (it's more like a braided rope) that you wrap around your fingers. In the event that an owl does get spooked somehow and tries to fly away from you, the staff will be the ones to contain it, but the rope basically helps it from going too far. There was a Great Horned Owl that required us to wear a thick glove to hold it, but I wish there was something for the medium-sized and littler owls too because their talons are still, you know, just a tad sharper than a cockatiel's, haha.
This is the Two Owl Challenge - hold two owls in different spots!
Gaze into those eyes...
Felt like I was being evaluated.
Owl selfie?

The star of the owl family here is the snowy owl, Chip, who gets her own perch near the back. She's apparently too aggressive to be handled by anyone but the staff. And she's the same breed as Hedwig from the Harry Potter movies. Trivia: male snowy owls are the ones with almost no gray/black flecks, so in the movies Hedwig was actually played by a male owl.
It took like 10 tries for her to look at the camera, too.

The gift shop in the loft is actually fairly expansive, and they have a lot of neat things. I picked up a couple postcards that I've been keeping pinned up as prints ever since. The best souvenirs though, are the actual photos! If you don't have a buddy to take photos of you with the owls, the staff is more than happy to help.
Wizard Chip in the top left corner though!!!

This was one of the highlights of my visit to Fukuoka, so if you also love owls and happen to be in the area, I definitely recommend it.
Fukuoka-shi, Fukuoka, Japan
1700 yen per adult for a 1-hour block. Children are 1000 yen.
(They appear to run deals often though, so keep checking back before you go; my friend and I each got in for 1500 yen)
*The price includes your drink (They offer coffee, hot chocolate, water, and my personal favorite, Calpico - among other things. I think they have alcohol now too.)
Website: http://blog.livedoor.jp/owlfamily/ (For reservations: www.veltra.com/en/asia/japan/fukuoka/a/124043)

Casey Shaffer