Look around you in Tokyo, and it’s easy to see that people are nuts about animals. Whether struttin’ around in strollers, or being primped and preened in salons, domesticated animals lead a particularly spoiled life. A city overloaded with cuteness, it’s hard to walk twenty metres without being visually assaulted by advertisements with anthropomorphised objects and beings.
In Tokyo, there is also a burgeoning industry of cafés that are centred on showcasing the most magnificent examples of animal species at an (often) inflated price, be they cats, rabbits, owls, penguins, goats, or birds. Locals flock and fly to these establishments to get a chance to touch these creatures and sip a latté next to them. Oftentimes, however, the animals at these cafés appear uninterested in the wave of customers who eagerly crowd around them like paparazzi, and they only become animated when some tasty treat is held up to their nose. Making things more difficult, admission fees are time-based and there is usually a cover charge involved. Losing track of time patting Fluffy, Mittens and Milo can make your visit to an animal café a costly affair, indeed.
So where can you go to enjoy all the benefits of an animal café, but at a rock-bottom price and without a clock looming over your head? The answer is Machida Squirrel Garden. Located about 20 minutes from Machida station by bus (from the no. 21 bus stop) and for just 400 yen, animal lovers can get up close and personal with these pocket-sized creatures.
Although the main players at this park are Pallas’s squirrels, a species that is endemic to Taiwan, China, and India, visitors can also rub shoulders (or paws) with marmots, guinea pigs, rabbits and chipmunks. You might also see Sachiko and Junko, two Kedzume land turtles, lumbering around the Garden, but do be careful not to trip over them!
Towards the entrance of Machida Squirrel Garden, visitors will see a number of hutches containing rabbits of different breeds. You can purchase for 100 yen a small bowl of vegetables to feed your favourite critters. One rabbit that is extremely popular and better fed than the others is of the Angora variety, sporting a hairstyle more luscious than Fabio’s.
If you’re squealing in front of your computer/smart phone at the thought of cuddling these bundles of fur and warmth, just wait until you get into the 200-metre open enclosure filled with Pallas’s squirrels. It’s a veritable playground for these mischievous little things; watch as they scurry, jump, and dart between wooden homes and slides that are specially made for them.
You can also buy some sunflower seeds (100 yen), but get ready to be ambushed by about half a dozen squirrels, some of which will prefer to speed up the process by taking off with the whole packet.
Machida Squirrel Garden is a must-visit location for those who are more than a touch susceptible to the cuteness of quadrupeds. Although a different experience to being in a small yet cosy animal café, the Machida Squirrel Garden gives visitors a chance to see the Pallas’s squirrels in an area that gives them plenty of space to play and live happily amongst their kind. Plus, when admission is only 400 yen, you’ll have no trouble squirreling away your money for another animal-related adventure in the future.