Fukuro” can have two meanings, and both apply here.

The city of Yokohama, about half an hour south of Tokyo, has all sorts of tasty cuisine, but the first stop for foodies visiting the city is its Chinatown. So, of course, on a recent afternoon, we were letting our stomachs lead us around the neighborhood.

Turning down the pathway called Tainan Alley, we found an enclave of Taiwanese restaurants, but one in particular caught our eye.

Written above the entrance was the restaurant’s name, Fukuro, rendered in the gold kanji 福楼. Loosely translated, they mean something like “building of prosperity,” but fukuro is also the Japanese word for “owl.” There was even a drawing of an owl on the restaurant’s sign, and since we always appreciate a good pun, we knew we had to eat here.

Owllllll yeahhhhh.

But when we stepped inside, the first “employee” we saw wasn’t a cook or server, but an honest-to-goodness owl.

Named Fuku-chan (naturally), this fukuro is Fukuro’s mascot. This isn’t one of Japan’s owl cafes, though, with multiple birds and a very limited drink menu. It’s a full-service restaurant that just happens to have a bird of prey hanging out inside.

▼ Along with perches and an owl carving, Fuku-chan’s territory includes a selection of Rowlet Pokémon plushies.

Since Fukuro specializes in Taiwanese cuisine, we ordered the lu rou fan, a Taiwanese comfort food pork bowl (it was also a bargain, at just 550 yen [US$5.25] as a lunch special).

The sweet and salty glaze was delicious, seeping deep into the meat and playing nicely with the leaf mustard and green onions.

As we happily chowed down, the restaurant’s manager told us the story of how Fuku-chan came to be part of the establishment. Despite the homonyms, Fukuro, which has been in business for many years, didn’t originally have a resident owl, and the dual meaning of the business’ name was just a coincidence.

But spending every day working in a place called Fukuro, the manager began to daydream about having an owl to share the place with. After being shown some photos by a customer who knew a bird broker, the manager instantly felt that Fuku-chan was the cutest of the bunch, and since 2016 Fuku-chan has been part of the crew.

Because of the similarities between the words fuku/prosperity and fukuro/owl, some people in Japan say owls are symbols of good fortune. Linguistics-based superstitions don’t always pan out, but as we left Fuku-chan gave us a friendly look, and if nothing else we felt pretty lucky about that.

Restaurant information
Fukuro / 福楼
Address: Kanagawa-ken, Yokohama-shi, Naka-ku, Yamashita-cho 137-26
Open 11 a.m.-10 p.m.

Photos ©SoraNews24
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