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With cat, rabbit, and owl cafes, Japan has you pretty well-covered as far as furry, fluffy, or feathered companionship goes. But what if you prefer your animals with scales?

Then you’ll want to stop by the reptile cafe, where you can sip tea and nibble on sweets in the company of iguanas, snakes, and tortoises.

Roughly a half-hour south of Tokyo is the city of Yokohama. A major metropolis in its own right, Yokohama also draws visitors from in and around Tokyo who flock to the city’s scenic harbor and Chinatown.

But there’s an especially unique attraction near Yokohama’s Hinodecho Station: the Reptile Cafe (“Hachurui Cafe” in Japanese).

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Even if you can’t read the kanji characters on the sign, the pictures of the snake and tortoise will let you know you’ve arrived. Head up the stairs, open the door, and you’ll be greeted by the sight of reptile enclosures holding some 40 specimens representing roughly 20 different species of reptiles, including snakes, lizards, and tortoises.

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Many animal cafes have a cover charge or limit how long customers can stay, but the Reptile Cafe has no need for such restrictions. As long as each member of your party orders at least one drink, you can relax as long as you want. Along with a pretty expansive selection of Chinese-style teas, you’ll also find a variety of desserts on the menu.

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Our 800-yen (US$6.50) oolong tea, made with organically grown leaves from Japan’s tea mecca of Uji, was tasty enough that the cafe would be worth stopping by even if it wasn’t filled with cool animals. But since it is, we decided to have a look around at the Reptile Cafe’s denizens.

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As a matter of fact, you can do more than just look. Certain enclosures have their doors left open, and visitors can reach in and give the occupants a pat. Picking the animals up, though, isn’t allowed, since that can make them think they’re about to be eaten, leading to panic and stress even after the ordeal is over. And as anyone who’s owned a reptilian pet knows, it’s extremely important to wash your hands both before and after handling the animals.

▼ This bearded dragon is happy to pose for the camera, but be advised that flash photography is prohibited.

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But by far the coolest part of the Reptile Cafe is the open area where a number of the animals can roam around outside of any glass enclosure or cage.

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Stepping inside the open area, we came across an African spurred tortoise, the largest animal in the cafe, and two smaller leopard tortoises, one of which was trying to climb up on the big guy’s shell.

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Moving past the early-stage tortoise pyramid, we came to this caiman lizard sitting serenely by the windowsill. The staff informed us it was in the middle of sunning in order to produce vitamin D.

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▼ Also catching some rays was this bearded dragon.

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Before we knew it, we’d already spent two hours soaking up the surprisingly soothing atmosphere. So if you’ve already checked off the major genres of animal cafes in Japan, come on down to Yokohama.

▼ You’ll feel as relaxed as this snoozing iguana.

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Cafe information
Yokohama Subtropical Building Reptile Cafe / 横浜亜熱帯茶館
Address: Kanagawa-ken, Yokohama-shi. Naka-ku, Chojamachi 8-133 Tomimori Shoji Building 2nd floor
Open 11 a.m.-7 p.m. (open reptile area until 5 p.m.)

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