Tea and cookies at a cat cafe too cutesy for you? We’ve got just the alternative for your next night out in Tokyo!

Like a lot of people who move to Tokyo for work, our Japanese-language reporter Ikuna has a bit of a problem. She lives alone, which sometimes also means she lives lonely.

Ikuna often finds herself wishing she could spend time with some lovable animals to alleviate her sense of solitude, but she’s not interested in Tokyo’s cat cafes, nor is she drawn to the idea of sipping tea at one of the city’s less-famous alternatives like the bunny rabbit or hedgehog cafes. No, what Ikuna wants to do is relax with a strong drink while being surrounded by dozens of beautiful reptiles, and we found just the place.

Located a short walk from Nakano Station, just west of the Tokyo city center, is the picturesque street called Renga Zaka (“Brick Hill”). Among the old-school signs for eateries and drinkeries is one for Bar Yatonokami (夜刀の神 in kanji).

With the sign’s snakeskin motif and a name that translates to “God of the Night Sword”, you might expect this to be a host club, staffed with men with pretty faces and bad-boy auras. And yes, as soon as you step into the stairwell for the second-floor bar, you’re bombarded with photos of Yatonokami’s most photogenic staff members.

However, there’s not a J-drama actor or male idol lookalike to be seen. Instead, it’s nothing but pictures of lizards, snakes, frogs, and other animals of the reptilian and amphibian categories.

While the stairwell will definitely give anyone who’s not comfortable with reptiles a serious case of the heebie-jeebies, all those photos serve the purpose of making sure no one walks into Yatonokami without knowing what’s waiting for them on the other side of the door, which is rows and rows of reptile habitats.

Poking his head out from behind the corner counter is Nishikawa, the owner of Yatonokami since its opening two years ago. He gave us a friendly greeting as we stepped inside, and was happy to take time to introduce us to some of the 100-plus creatures that live in the bar.

There’s actually a lot of conversation that goes on at Yatonomaki. At a cat or dog cafe, there’s a constant background noise of playful barking and purring, plus squeals of “So cute!” from the human customers, but as a reptile bar, Yatonokami’s animals are almost largely silent, which lets customers easily talk with each other and Nishikawa.

As Ikuna talked about her love of reptiles, and hope to have one as a pet someday, Nishikawa explained that they’re an excellent choice for people who live alone. While exact requirements of course vary by species, many reptiles are low-maintenance pets. They won’t bother your neighbors with loud noises or damage your furniture while you’re at work, and many only require feedings once every few days.

▼ Ikuna meets a crested gecko, one of Yatonokami’s reptiles that’s comfortable playing with new friends.

▼ After handling each animal he takes out of its habitat, Nishikawa carefully washes and disinfects his hands.

▼ He also tweets photos of his reptilian coworkers.

Many small bars in Japan have a reputation for being inhospitable to first-time customers, maintaining an atmosphere that’s closer to a private club than an open-to-the-public drinking place. That’s very much not the case at Yatonokami, however. As a matter of fact, Nishikawa estimates that about 20 percent of his customers don’t have a particularly strong preexisting interest in reptiles; they just notice his bar’s unusual stairway, come up to see what the interior looks like, and decide to stick around for a drink. “In life, you shouldn’t deny others from liking the things that they like,” he sagely says, and the often misunderstood animals he works with no doubt agree.

Bar information
Yatonokami / 夜刀神
Address: Tokyo-to, Nakano-ku, Nakano 3-35-5, Snack Soul 2nd floor
東京都中野区中野3-35-5スナックソウル2F

Photos ©SoraNews24
[ Read in Japanese ]