In the concrete jungle that is Tokyo, you’ll find dozens of exotic snakes — all hanging out at the Tokyo Snake Center snake cafe in Harajuku.
With cat cafes, rabbit cafes and owl cafes already enjoying widespread popularity, it was only a matter of time that the first snake cafe opened in Japan.
The Tokyo Snake Center Snake Cafe, which opened permanently August 8, 2015, is the creation of Mr. Hisamitsu Kaneko. Mr. Kaneko is the CEO of the founding company HUE’ DESIGN LABEL and himself was born in the “snake year” of the Chinese zodiac.
— 東京スネークセンター@祝！入場9000人 (@tkysnakecenter) 2016年4月21日
According to the newspaper Shibuya Keizai Shimbun, the cafe opened for a total of 29 days in November 2014 through March 2015 as a trial period and to raise funding for opening permanently, along with crowd funding in summer 2015.
Interestingly, during this trial period, approximately 90% of the visitors were female, which reflects my observations during the visit to the permanent cafe.
— 東京スネークセンター@祝！入場9000人 (@tkysnakecenter) 2016年5月3日
The cafe, located in the fashionable Harajuku district, can be described as “clinically” white with just the right mix of cute and stylish to be appealing to the college-age to late twenties crowd that it targets.
Snake Cafe System
For most other animal cafes, the rabbits, cats, or birds are either roaming freely or kept in one spot for visitors to approach. At the snake cafe, when you first walk in, you’ll first choose a snake ‘attendant’ from the cases lining a shelf and then your snake attendant’s case will be placed on your table while you enjoy your drinks and any snacks you order. According to the snake cafe website, there are currently 39 snake attendants in rotation.
— 東京スネークセンター@祝！入場9000人 (@tkysnakecenter) 2016年4月11日
We ended up choosing one of the Brazilian Rainbow Boas as our attendant. (Forgive me, I can’t remember if it was Nijisuke or Nijiko). All the snakes are fascinating in their own right, so it was difficult to choose. If you are having a hard time, you might want to refer to the “most popular attendant” list posted on the wall. According to this list, Riko the black rat snake, Love the cornsnake, and Michael the ball python are the top choices.
Like many other animal cafes, there is an entrance fee (1,000 yen) that also covers one drink, the company of a snake attendant at your table and all-you-can-take photos. Tokyo Snake Center doesn’t have an explicit time limit or charge per hour, but it’s polite to be mindful that others may be waiting to be seated.
You can of course order additional drinks (540 yen each) or make your drink into a vanilla float (108 yen extra). While naturally the snakes are the main attraction, you may also want to try out the appetizers or the desserts (generally 540 yen or 864 yen).
— 東京スネークセンター@祝！入場9000人 (@tkysnakecenter) 2016年4月24日
Snake Petting Session
One of the biggest draws of the Tokyo Snake Center snake cafe is the optional snake holding and petting session. Once you’re finished with your drinks, you can head over to a plush couch where the resident veterinarian will let you know the rules and then drape you in two or three snakes (not at the same time, of course).
The “snake rapport” fee for holding the snakes is 540 yen. Photos are allowed, so you may want to take the opportunity to ask one of the staff members to take one of you (and your friends) adorned with snakes. Also, none of the snakes at the Tokyo Snake Center are poisonous, so hopefully this can convince any snake-shy friends to come with you to the cafe.
Snake Cafe Services
In addition to the standard snake cafe attendant session and the snake holding session, the cafe offers several other experiences and services.
From October 2015, the Tokyo Snake Center began having a feeding session every day at 6:00pm where you can watch the snakes being fed. Not for the squeamish, but certainly a rare opportunity.
In addition, the Tokyo Snake Center snake cafe offers services for snake owners. As part of this, the snake cafe sells snake-related pet supplies, such as snake food (mice!). You’ll also be able to take your pet snake to the snake cafe for a medical checkup with a certified veterinarian on certain days with a reservation. According to the Shibuya Keizai Shimbun, the checkups start at 1,080 yen. Another useful services is the pet hotel for snakes, for those times when you’ll be on a vacation or are in the middle of a move and need someone to take care of your snake friend.
Last, of course, you’ll have a wide variety of snake souvenirs to choose from, including snake cookies (324 yen) and snake neckties.
Have you visited the Tokyo Snake Center snake cafe?
— 東京スネークセンター@祝！入場9000人 (@tkysnakecenter) 2016年4月20日
Tokyo Snake Center Snake Cafe Details
Please note that these details are subject to change and are based on the Tokyo Snake Center website as of May 22, 2016.
Tokyo Snake Center Snake Cafe Official Site [in Japanese with some English]
Tokyo Snake Center Official Twitter [in Japanese]
Tokyo Snake Center Official Facebook [in Japanese]
Everyday (including national holidays) except Tuesday
11:00 – 20:00
(Occasionally has late openings or early closings; check website)
Telephone: 03-6427-9912 (for reservations, questions)
Sampo Sogo building 8F, 6-5-6 Jingumae, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo
*In same building as Tonkotsu Ramen shop ICHIRAN (on 2nd floor) and karaoke box KARAOKEKAN (on B1F)
JR Yamanote Line Harajuku Station: 1 minute on foot
Google Map and direction photos (on Tokyo Snake Center website)
(In full disclosure, I know one of the staff, but I wasn’t asked to write this article. It’s a neat place! You should go!)