So, you’re an animal lover. During your time in Tokyo, you’ve been to a cat café or two and maybe even to an owl café. What would you say about trying something different? Something a little more… cold-blooded. Why not try the Tokyo Snake Center in Harajuku?
If you’re willing to take the dare, then make your way over to the Tokyo Snake Center. All the snakes you’ll find inside are non-aggressive constrictor species, so let go of any doubts and fears and push the door open. Oh, and you’ll also be glad to know that there’s no need to feel self-conscious about your Japanese skills. The employees are very tourist-friendly and speak fluent English. As soon as you step in, a nice, smiling lady will greet you and ask whether it’s your first visit. If your answer is “yes,” she will then proceed to explain the café rules and snake etiquette.
On your left you’ll see several cases containing small snakes. These are called “attendants,” because they are there to assist you while you drink your coffee. You’re only allowed to pick one, though, so choose carefully. I myself settled on Kyoro, a white male Texas rat snake. He kept his head of out sight as I sipped my frozen café-au-lait, but I was still very proud of my choice, because a white snake is believed to be a messenger of God. And also, because I’m a bit of a music nerd and Whitesnake is, in my humble opinion, one of the few hair metal bands worth listening to.
If you’re feeling adventurous, you can also choose to touch a live snake. This will cost you an extra 540 yen – a small price for something you don’t get to do very often. I myself was giddy as I approached one of the employees and said “Um, excuse me, I’d like to try touching them, too, please.” The lady smiled a big smile and led me to one of the two sofas at the back of the café. She then placed a towel on my lap. “Because snakes sometimes pee,” she explained. Yup, wouldn’t want that.
The snakes that can be petted are not the same as the attendants, so you’ll have to pick from another row of snake cases. The surprise? You can pet two snakes! You get to spend about 5 minutes with each of them. Since you have to keep as still as you can, don’t be shy to ask the employee assisting you to take pictures. They are more than glad to do so!
So, for the petting session, I picked a python and a Texas corn snake. For the python, I was advised to pretend to be a tree. “He’s very relaxed,” the lady remarked. “You’re a good tree.” I was reluctant to part with this one, but my second choice, the female corn snake, was also very nice to interact with. I guess the feeling was mutual, as she was still holding on to me when it was time for her to get back to her box. “She really likes you,” the lady laughed.
If you want something to remember your visit to the Tokyo Snake Center by, the café also sells snake-related memorabilia. I recommend the omamori (lucky charm) made using shed snakeskin. These only cost around 600 yen. In order for the omamori to bring you what you desire, make sure you choose the right shape. It’s heart for love, diamond for wealth, and – if you’ve been feeling down lately – round for all-round luck. You can also buy books about snakes, postcards featuring the café’s reptilian stars and fake snakeskin wallets and book covers.
Before you leave, vote for your favorite snake in the café. The employees use the votes to draw up a yearly Hall-of-Fame of their most popular snakes, who are then featured on postcards and in calendars. The voting procedure is quite easy. First, you check the name of your favorite cold-blooded critter. Then, an employee will give you a heart sticker and point you to a chart on the wall listing all the snakes. Just place the heart next to the name of your favorite. As you may have guessed, the snakes with the most hearts get to be in the hall of fame.
As of the publishing date of this article, the uncontested leader of the chart was – also my personal favorite – the python! His name is Panther, by the way, though, before finding this out, I referred to him as “Kaa.” However, he will not ask you to trust in him as he tries to hypnotize you. He just needs you to be calm and still as a tree during the few minutes you get to spend together.
So, to meet Panther and his friends and have an amazing experience that will leave you feeling more refreshed and recharged than you might have expected, don’t hesitate to go on over to the Tokyo Snake Center. No reservations needed!
Tokyo Snake Center Information
Nearest Station: x-minute walk from Station (plan your route at the link and click on the Google Map below for walking directions)