In recent years, animal cafes in Tokyo have become all the rage – the rarer the better. Hedgehogs, with their cute derpy faces and intimidating spikes, are one of the most popular. There are a few hedgehog cafes in Tokyo, the most prominent one being the Hedgehog cafe® HARRY chain found in Roppongi, Harajuku and Yokohama. Although less well-known, there’s actually also an unrelated hedgehog cafe in Kabukicho, Shinjuku, an area more famous for being a seedy red light district at night.
HAGU Cafe (ハグカフェ) features both hedgehogs and degu, a cute rodent-like animal that originates from Chile. The name of the cafe itself is actually a combination of the first katakana syllable for hedgehog in Japanese (ハリネズミ), and the last katakana syllable for degu (デグー). The good thing about it being less known is two-fold: there are less people, and it’s slightly cheaper.
A first encounter with degu
The moment we entered, we saw a cute degu pressed up against its cage. It being the first time I’d seen a degu, I couldn’t resist going up to it. One of the staff kindly took out the degu for us to hold. However, it could hardly sit still, running excitedly up and down our shoulders and arms.
As it showed no signs of stopping, we eventually got the staff to return it to its cage, lest we have no time for the main attraction…
On the other side of the room were between 10-20 glass enclosures of hedgehogs. You can pick which one you want to hold, except for the ones with the “resting” sticker on their cage door. We picked a hedgehog each and they were placed in a house-shaped box on the table so we could pet and feed them. We were told not to touch their spikes if possible, as they would see it as an attack and bristle. You can ask for gloves if you prefer.
We mostly tried to pick them up from below, but they didn’t seem to like leaving the refuge of their house-shaped box very much. One even bit me in his attempt to return. Thankfully, it was not hard enough to draw blood, although it did hurt like getting your finger pinched by a clothes peg.
The most enjoyable part was feeding them the live mealworms, which they did like. As soon as we picked one up with the tweezers and held it near them, they would sniff furiously and turn towards the squirming worm. Then they would munch on it in the most satisfying way, licking their lips animatedly.
You can swap to other hedgehogs during your session, so we returned the poor fellas to their enclosures and got out another two.
The one I got was obviously not over its nap, and eventually retreated to the corner of the petting box and slept. Not having the heart to wake it, I contented to stroking its tummy as it did so. And it seemed perfectly fine with that.
Bookings are not essential, and if just showing up on the day you can choose from a half hour session (JPY 1,200 per person) or an hour (JPY 2,200 per person). One drink is included. You can add on a “snack” (live, wriggling mealworms) for the hedgehogs for JPY 500 per serving. While a little pricey, I do recommend it as the hedgehogs really enjoy it.
While you can easily walk there from any of the Shinjuku Stations, the one on the Seibu Shinjuku Line is the closest.
Address: 新宿区歌舞伎町1-27-3 KKビル 4F
4F KK Building, 1-27-3 Kabukicho, Shinjuku-ku
It is open everyday from 12pm noon to 8pm.
How to make a booking
Booking in advance is not required, or really necessary, especially on weekdays. However, it is best to do so if you have a tight schedule, as customers with bookings have priority. You can make bookings from 30 days up to 1 day before your desired date: HAGU CAFE Booking Page (Japanese only). Cancellations can be made free of charge up to the day before.
It is worth noting that while half an hour (JPY 1,200 pp) and one hour (JPY 2,200 pp) options are available if fronting up at store without reservations, you can only book for an hour on their site.
Groupon Japan seems to offer a pretty nice discount of 58% off, AND they allow you to book for half an hour sessions as well. So if you can read Japanese, do check for available deals before you go.
I know many animal lovers like myself are torn between wanting to interact with animals up close, and the being concerned about their welfare. I’ve been to a number of animal cafes in Tokyo now. The more I visit, the least I like it. The animals are extremely cute, but most of the time they seem worn out, and sometimes even scared. I enjoyed playing with the hedgehogs at HAGU Cafe, but I couldn’t help but also feel sorry for them. As such, I don’t really want to support this type of activity anymore.
I do understand the pull towards such places and don’t feel it is my place to tell people to go or not to go.
Regarding the ethics of animals cafes, the animals are not abused in the explicit sense of being beaten and neglected. And from what I have seen, staff do seem to care about the creatures. But if you are someone who feels animal abuse extends to captivity and novelty, then you’re probably best filling your schedule with something else.