Take a peek inside Japan’s ‘wonderful’ micro pig cafés


It’s the latest in a series of animal coffee shops that have popped up in Japan, including ones with owls, hedgehogs and even snakes.

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Pig cafés are the latest craze pulling in tourists in Japan.

The surprisingly quiet, clean and companionable animals have been bringing a smile to people’s faces at Tokyo’s Mipig Café.

“It was wonderful. Very relaxing and enjoyable,” said Brad Loomis, a software engineer from Washington, visiting with his 21-year-old daughter Paige.

They were among dozens of customers on a recent morning, taking selfies and breaking into big grins. The pigs, a miniature breed, trotted about the room, looking for a cosy lap to cuddle up.

Where are Japan’s pig cafés?

The Mipig Café in fashionable Harajuku is among 10 such pig cafés the operator has opened around Japan, including one in the northernmost main island of Hokkaido and another in Fukuoka on the southern Kyushu island.

The first one opened in Tokyo in 2019. Two more are in the works for later this year.

“Each pig is unique. Each one has his or her own personality. You may notice one may be strong-headed, and another may be gentle,” said Shiho Kitagawa, an executive at Mipig who refers to the pigs as “buta-san,” using an honorific.

The animals, known as “micro pigs,” don’t get bigger than a corgi dog, even as adults. The cafés also feature adorable baby pigs the size of toy poodles.

A drink dispensing machine is in the corner of the café, but hardly anyone was bothering to get a drink, being too occupied with the pigs.

How much does it cost to visit a pig café?

Customers pay 2,200 yen (€14) for the first 30 minutes in the company of the pigs. A reservation is required.

Foreign tourists visiting the café said they found out about it on Instagram and other social media. The café does not invest in advertising.

They made sure to include a visit during their trip to Japan, along with the usual tourist spots like the ancient capital of Kyoto, they said.

Australian Ben Russell smiled when a pig finally climbed into his lap. Although this was his first encounter with a real pig, they have always been his favourite animal, he said, although he wasn’t sure exactly why.

Sophie Mo’unga from New Zealand, in Japan with her husband and two children, was a big hit with the pigs, with several of them fighting over her lap.

“They were cute. I think they were all keeping each other warm,” she said.

Are Japan’s animal cafés ethical?

The pig café is the latest in a series of animal coffee shops that have popped up in Japan, including ones that feature owls, hedgehogs, birds and even snakes.

Some people have raised ethical questions about whether the animals enjoy the experience as much as the humans.

“It must be stressful to be touched and fondled by a bunch of strangers,” said Sachiko Azuma, head of Tokyo-based PEACE, which stands for Put an End to Animal Cruelty and Exploitation.

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“The animals have become tools for a money-making business,” she said. Her group mainly opposes animal experiments and “petting zoos.”

Cafés tend to be tiny and don’t provide enough of a natural environment for cats or small pigs, and those that entrap wildlife are abhorrent, Azuma said.

She approves of cafés run by shelters trying to find owners for abandoned pets.

Are there health benefits to visiting an animal café?

Dr Bruce Kornreich, professor of clinical sciences at Cornell University’s College of Veterinary Medicine in Ithaca, New York, said interacting with animals can lower one’s blood pressure and reduce headaches and the risk of cardiovascular disease.

It also enhances a sense of wellbeing and helps people cope with stress, he said.

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“How they do these things, I’m not sure we know the answer,” said Kornreich, who is also part of the Cornell Feline Health Center, which advocates the study and wellbeing of cats.

“There is mounting evidence that associating with and owning pets can provide mental health and physical health benefits for people,” he said in a Zoom interview.

Even with dogs, it’s not clear if it’s walking the dog that helps the owner’s health or being in the presence of a friendly animal.

Whatever it is, with dogs or pigs, people are soothed and happy.

“Very cute and very sleepy,” Paige Loomis said of the pigs. “They made me sleepy.”

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