My wife, who’s always interested in learning more about foreign culture (no doubt in an effort to better understand her insufferably baffling husband), recently asked me how Easter is celebrated in America. “We usually hunt for Easter eggs and eat chocolate rabbits,” I told her, which quickly presented us with two problems. First, our apartment isn’t nearly large enough for a proper Easter egg hunt, and while you can get special Easter donuts in Japan, bunny-shaped candies are surprisingly nonexistent.
Stumped as to how to spend the holiday, my wife offered a suggestion. “Why don’t we go to the rabbit café?”
In the same vein as Japan’s cat (and owl) cafes, the Ra.a.g.f. rabbit café allows customers to relax and have a drink in the company of a group of adorable rabbits. Ra.a.g.f., pronounced “Raf,” and an acronym for “Rabbit and grow fat,” has two branches in Tokyo. The original location is located downtown in trendy Harajuku, but we decided to stop by their second café in the less-crowded Jiyugaoka neighborhood, about 15 minutes south of Shibuya Station on the Toyoko Line.
While Ra.a.g.f. takes reservations, walk-ins are fine too, space permitting. We stopped by on a rainy Sunday afternoon, and while the cozy café has only five tables, there was plenty of space.
The staff gave us a warm greeting as we came in, asking us to take our shoes off in the entryway, much like you would in a Japanese house. As a matter of fact, the relaxed vibe makes a trip to Ra.a.g.f. feel a little like a visit to a pet-lover’s home, with cushions of the floor to sit on and soft music playing from a stereo.
An attendant came over to explain the pricing system and house rules. Two plans are available, both of which include unlimited refills from the menu of tea, coffee, cocoa, and juices. The cheaper course is 30-minutes for 700 yen (US$6.85) per person. Between my wife’s love of cute animals and my love of economics, though, we opted for a full hour for 1,100 yen. Regardless of which plan you choose, extensions are possible as long as there isn’t a line of customers waiting to be seated.
After the attendant came back with our drinks (which are thoughtfully topped with lids, to prevent any spills or rabbit hair from drifting into them), she briefed us on how to handle the rabbits, asking that we not pick up any that showed any resistance to being held, and also instructing us as to the proper technique for those bunnies that would acquiesce to a cuddle.
▼ “Make sure to properly support the rabbit’s bottom.” Awww.
The seating area is divided into two sections, since some of the rabbits can get a bit territorial when more than one is in the same area. While you’re assigned a table when you come in, during our visit most of the customers milled freely about between the two zones, as the humans, united by a common love of rabbits, seemed more than willing to share space with each other.
We were lucky, though, in that when we arrived, there were actually two bunnies scampering around and under our table, one particularly good-natured Ra.a.g.f. adult resident, plus an energetic tyke that, at just two months old, wasn’t aggressive at all towards its fellow rabbit.
▼ All that fluffiness masks the fact that the two-month-old still has a pretty tiny body.
The rabbits were friendly and curious, as they trotted over to each new customer who came in. Still, the furry critters are very much the ones calling the shots here, as they’re not coerced into sitting or playing with any customers. Instead, they come and go as they please, bounding over to be petted or patted for a few moments before wandering off, then hopping onto another customer’s lap later for some more affection. The whole thing is much less “hostess bar with animals” and more “petting zoo with soft drinks.”
Along the back wall are the pens of the rabbits who aren’t hopping around the seating areas. Some of these are for sale, and are differentiated from the regular Ra.a.g.f. roster by the fact that they don’t have names (since the fun of picking one I left up to the future owner). Ra.a.g.f. also operates as a “rabbit hotel” where owners can leave their pet if they have to go out of town, and on the day we visited, one of the animals belonged to our attendant, who had brought her bunny to work with her.
▼ This floppy-eared guy doesn’t like to be held, the staff informed us.
▼ These two sisters share their living space.
Rabbits can only play for so long before they need a rest, though, so periodically the attendants will put one back in its pen and bring out another, with customers being able to request which replacement they’d like.
▼ “My turn!”
For an extra 150 yen, you can also purchase a plate of thin-sliced veggies and fruit, to feed to the rabbits as treats.
▼ We suppose you could also eat them yourself, if you’re so inclined.
Our dish came with eight or so pieces, and when the rabbit on duty saw we’d ordered a tray, he sauntered right over.
▼ Seriously, how could you say no to that face? We darned near gave him our wallets.
We recommend keeping a close eye on your dish of rabbit snacks, though, since when we took our eyes off of ours for a few moments, the energetic bunny took advantage of our lapse in attention to leap right up onto our table to grab some for himself.
There’s one more thing to keep in mind when visiting Ra.a.g.f., which became apparent as the staff brought out a new furry friend. The rabbits don’t shed very much, and they are partially house-broken, with designated spots to go to the bathroom which we saw several of the critters using. Still, they occasionally feel the need to mark their territory, or simply don’t think to run off into a discreet corner when they reach the end of the digestive process. As a result, they’ll sometimes leave behind little mementos of their last meal on the carpet. While the pellets don’t make that much of a mess, you probably don’t want to wear your newest or most expensive pair of socks to the café.
▼ For us? Ahh, you shouldn’t have!
▼ That’s OK, fella! Accidents happen.
In the end, we were glad we went with the one-hour package, since before we knew it, an attendant came by to tell us our 60 minutes were up. We snapped a few more photos and were on our way, and while the lack of any human food on the menu means you’re unlikely to “grow fat” at Ra.a.g.f., we can’t imagine it won’t make you happy and relaxed.
Address: Tokyo-to, Meguro-ku, Jiyugaoka 1-26-3, Jiyugaoka Masumoto Building 5th floor
Open weekdays Noon-7:30 p.m.
Open weekends 11 a.m.-8 p.m.
Address: Tokyo-to, Shibuya-ku, Jingumae 6-14-15, Maison Harajuku 3rd floor
Closed Fridays, third Thursday of every month
Open weekdays noon-7:30 p.m.
Open weekends 11 a.m.-8 p.m.