Animal house: Where to meet goats in central Tokyo

July 02, 2013

By ATSUKO KAWAGUCHI/ Staff Writer

Tokyo, with its wacky sense of street style, just got wackier.

A cafe that opened in the capital's hip Shibuya district took a novel approach to attracting customers: It keeps two goats on the premises.

The animals are proving to be a hit with young women, whose squeals of "kawaii!" (cute) when they encounter white nanny goat Sakura and black female goat Shokora echo across the cafe space.

Monthly earnings at the Sakuragaoka Cafe have soared since the animals took up residence.

The joint is a 5-minute walk from the bronze statue of Hachiko, the iconic dog, at Shibuya Station.

Shop owner Hidemasa Otani, 45, went the goat route after he visited Taiwan with his family.

Taiwan is said to be the birthplace of the "cat cafe," a hugely popular type of shop in Japan where customers can sip beverages while stroking felines.

"Watching the happy look on my daughter's face as she played with cats, I realized once again that animals have great ability to make humans relax," Otani said.

Because male goats release strong pheromones--that means they are smelly--Otani decided he couldn't have them anywhere near where food was being served. So, he opted for female ones.

According to Otani, a growing number of customers come from even outside Tokyo to see the goats.

Previously, his core clientele were people working in companies in the business district where his shop is located.

But, three and a half years ago, he built a wooden extension next to the cafe's outdoor seating and started keeping goats.

The number of women dropping by began to rise sharply, and his weekend trade went up by 20 percent, adding 1.5 million yen ($15,300) to the cafe's monthly earnings.

Though Otani's professional background is in music management, he had longed to open a coffee shop that offered something different late at night after clubs with live music had closed.

"I wanted to create an environment featuring this city's characteristic atmosphere that major chain stores do not have," Otani said.

His vision was to create a place where both humans and goats co-exist and feel relaxed.

To ensure the animals get proper sleep, given that goats generally sleep only two to three hours a day, the cage is covered with a curtain that blocks out light at night.

Otani's staff sometimes take them for walks to Shibuya Station for exercise to keep the animals healthy.

Initially, the goats gave out quite a pong. But after lacing their food with protein, which has a deodorizing effect, according to the advice of a veterinarian customer, their odor improved markedly.

Such is the goats' popularity that a professional writer was driven to create a picture book about the two animals last autumn.

In the story, the two nanny goats embark on a journey with a specific goal in mind, and write a letter addressed to an old man while fighting back their desire to chomp on the paper.

The goats are not big--just about 80 centimeters long--and are kept on the veranda in a metal cage, complete with a wooden kennel structure facing the street. They walk around the pen, sometimes nibbling on the side of their sleeping quarters. Customers inside the shop can view them through a glass panel.

The Sakuragaoka Cafe opens from 8 a.m. to 4 a.m. on weekdays, from 11:30 a.m. to 4 a.m. on Saturdays, as well as from 11:30 a.m. to midnight on Sundays.

By ATSUKO KAWAGUCHI/ Staff Writer
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Customers at the Sakuragaoka Cafe in Tokyo's Shibuya district can feed the goats while sitting outdoors. (Atsuko Kawaguchi)

Customers at the Sakuragaoka Cafe in Tokyo's Shibuya district can feed the goats while sitting outdoors. (Atsuko Kawaguchi)

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  • Customers at the Sakuragaoka Cafe in Tokyo's Shibuya district can feed the goats while sitting outdoors. (Atsuko Kawaguchi)

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