“Sometimes, at night, I think about Japan, and I'm like, 'Did I create this country in my mind?'”
And with that line Shoshana from "Girls" pretty much sums up what everyone is thinking about Japan when they visit. It's almost as if you've stepped into the exact crazy world you were expecting, but even then it still offers up surprises at every turn.
Like the café culture, for example. You can find pretty much every kind of adorable animal imaginable, and then some. Who wouldn't want to kick back in a too-cool-for-school, Toyko café surrounded by *insert fluffy animal of your dreams here*?
Visiting an animal café is tourist must for all those perfect Insta holiday shots and thus my recent trip to Japan had me feeling the need to sip tea on a bed of boop-worthy cuties (not literally).
Enter 'Dog Heart from Aquamarine' puppy café.
Finding the establishment itself was a task all on its own. My puppy-loving crew and I struggled with the tricky Tokyo side streets until a kindly active-wear clad woman rescued our ignorant selves and pointed us towards pooch paradise.
To be honest, the whole experience was really weird.
The café was wedged into the triangular point of a building, up a flight of stairs, in a teensy tiny room that could accommodate around eight people.
Upon entry, we were greeted by a blackboard of dogs that would be "joining" us and were instructed to put on dungarees that looked super fly (read: daggy) but made everyone look like they were in some sort of puppy cult. I guess that's kind of living your best life, right?
Firstly, there was no food (or there appeared to be no food) so it was basically a puppy petting zoo. As a dog lover, this sounds amazing, of course. I just couldn't shake the weird vibe the “café” was giving off because it basically felt like that scene in The Simpsons where the babies are in the ball pit, they start to surface, the supervisor says "add more balls" and a lever is pulled and more balls appear. Only with puppies. Still sounds amazing, right?
It's just that the whole room was really quiet and the puppies sort of just slinked around. Sure, you could wander over to them and pick them up to put on your lap but I felt dirty (not because they weren't clean) but almost like I was in a puppy petting brothel. It wasn't genuine. These puppies were more interested in chewing each others ears than having a bunch of tourists paw all over them. I don't blame them, tbh.
Look, having easy access to puppies (although some were dogs and not the advertised PUPPIES we were expecting) in a foreign country is not something to be sneezed at, but paying ¥950 for 30 minute increments in a small, bizarre-shaped room with a bunch of other weirdo tourists just felt wrong.
I'm not entirely sure what I was hoping for but whatever it was, this wasn't the Puppy Heaven I imagined it would be.
Maybe I should have tried the hedgehogs?