Travel Story New Japanese craze: Harajuku's yen for hedgehogs

Sitting in a big room on the top floor of a building in the heart of Tokyo’s Harajuku district, I look around to a sight that could only occur in a city that never ceases to surprise.

With the windows darkened and covered by signs and posters, with the views outside all but blocked out, I feel as if I am in some strange TV show.

Instead, I am at one of Japan’s countless “theme” cafes, with the focus of this particular one being hedgehogs.

Theme cafes have been popping up across Japan for several years now, with the most notable including cat cafes (now replicated in Perth), owl cafes, a Kawaii Monster Cafe, as well as a Robot Restaurant.

Standing on the street and seeing the signs for the cat and hedgehog cafes, my companions and I decided to see what all the fuss was about.

After taking a tiny elevator to the top floor of a fairly nondescript building, the door opened up to a room full of tourists spread out across the room and fawning over the tiny critters.

Despite the cafe inclusion in the name of the business, no food is actually on offer — instead customers have unlimited access to vending machines with an array of drinks.

A huge sign above the counter depicts the range of hedgehogs in the cafe — with most for sale.

The most covetable potential pet available seemed to be the albino hedgehog, which retailed for between 30,000-40,000 yen, about $360.

Posting photos on social media during the experience proved interesting.

Many people were quick to make the connection between the animal and cafe offering as a sign we had dived into some of Japan’s quirkier food offerings.

Some explaining later, and we were off the hook, reassuring loved ones back home we were just there to pat and hold the animals — which probably sounded strange enough in itself.

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