comscore At trendy cafes, customers cuddle pigs | Honolulu Star-Advertiser
News

At trendy cafes, customers cuddle pigs

Honolulu Star-Advertiser logo
Unlimited access to premium stories for as low as $12.95 /mo.
Get It Now
  • ASSOCIATED PRESS
                                The Mipig Cafe in fashionable Harajuku is among 20 pig cafes that Mipig has opened in Japan. The cafes feature micro pigs, which grow no larger than the size of a corgi. The miniature pigs generally enjoy socializing with people.

    ASSOCIATED PRESS

    The Mipig Cafe in fashionable Harajuku is among 20 pig cafes that Mipig has opened in Japan. The cafes feature micro pigs, which grow no larger than the size of a corgi. The miniature pigs generally enjoy socializing with people.

  • ASSOCIATED PRESS
                                The dozens of visitors at a Tokyo Mipig Cafe on a recent morning took selfies and broke into huge smiles. The cafe requires reservations, and customers pay $15 for the first 30 minutes of a visit. Shiho Kitagawa, a Mipig executive, holds a pig.

    ASSOCIATED PRESS

    The dozens of visitors at a Tokyo Mipig Cafe on a recent morning took selfies and broke into huge smiles. The cafe requires reservations, and customers pay $15 for the first 30 minutes of a visit. Shiho Kitagawa, a Mipig executive, holds a pig.

TOKYO >> First there were cafes that allowed pets. Then came cat cafes, where lattes took second place to feline interaction. The latest craze in Japan: The pig cafe.

“It was wonderful. Very relaxing and enjoyable,” said Brad Loomis, a software engineer from Pullman, Wash., after visiting Tokyo’s Mipig Cafe with his 21-year-old daughter, Paige.

They were among dozens of customers on a recent morning, taking selfies and breaking into huge smiles. The pigs, a miniature breed, trotted about the room, looking for a cozy lap.

The pigs are surprisingly quiet, although they occasionally snort. They dislike being alone, making for great companions. And contrary to stereotype, they’re clean and don’t smell.

Customers pay 2,200 yen ($15) for 30 minutes of time with the pigs. A reservation is required.

“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,” the honorific “san” conveying respect.

This Mipig Cafe, in fashionable Harajuku, is one of 20 pig cafes the company has opened around Japan. The first opened in Tokyo in 2019. Two more are in the works to open later this year.

The animals, known as micro pigs, are about the size of a corgi when full grown. The cafes also feature adorable baby pigs the size of toy poodles.

Pig lovers say the animals make great pets. They can be purchased from Mipig for about 200,000 yen ($1,350), housebroken and accustomed to being with people. Mipig says it has sold 1,300 pigs as pets. The company also sells pig food.

In the corner of the cafe, a drink dispenser was largely ignored — visitors were too occupied with the pigs to get a drink.

International visitors said they learned about the cafe through social media and included a visit on their itineraries, alongside popular tourist spots such as the ancient capital of Kyoto.

Ben Russell, who was visiting from Australia, smiled when a pig finally climbed into his lap. Although this was his first encounter with a real pig, he said they have always been his favorite animal.

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.

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

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

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

“The animals have become tools for moneymaking (ventures),” she said.

PEACE opposes animal experiments and petting zoos. Cafes tend to be tiny and don’t provide enough of a natural environment for cats or small pigs, Azuma said. She approves of cafes run by shelters trying to find owners for abandoned pets.

Dr. Bruce Kornreich, professor of clinical sciences at Cornell University’s College of Veterinary Medicine in Ithaca, N.Y., said interacting with animals can lower a person’s blood pressure, and reduce headaches and the risk of cardiovascular disease. Being with animals also enhances a sense of well-being and helps people cope with stress, he said.

“How they do these things, I’m not sure we know the answer,” said Kornreich in a Zoom interview. He is also part of the Cornell Feline Health Center, which advocates the study and well-being of cats.

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

No matter what type of animal a person prefers, they often come away soothed and happy.

“(They’re) very cute and very (relaxing),” said Paige Loomis of the pigs. “They made me (relaxed).”

Comments (5)

By participating in online discussions you acknowledge that you have agreed to the Terms of Service. An insightful discussion of ideas and viewpoints is encouraged, but comments must be civil and in good taste, with no personal attacks. If your comments are inappropriate, you may be banned from posting. Report comments if you believe they do not follow our guidelines.

Having trouble with comments? Learn more here.

Click here to see our full coverage of the coronavirus outbreak. Submit your coronavirus news tip.

Be the first to know
Get web push notifications from Star-Advertiser when the next breaking story happens — it's FREE! You just need a supported web browser.
Subscribe for this feature

Scroll Up