Enjoy a Whiskey and a Lizard at This Bizarre Tokyo Reptile Cafe

Cat cafes are cute and all, but they’re so 2017. Japan is now embracing a new kind of critter culture — the reptile bar and cafe scene. Lizard- and snake-centric establishments are popping up throughout the country’s biggest cities. Bar Yatonokami is one such bar with a quirky vibe that feels like a secret pet store with a liquor license.

Just west of downtown Tokyo, down the well-traveled pedestrian street Renga Zaka, lies one of the capital city’s newest niche bars. Its nondescript entrance — a dim, fluorescent-lit staircase papered with hundreds of amateur photos of snakes, lizards, and other reptiles leading to an even dimmer second story bar — seems designed to maximize its mystique. The sign on the entrance, Bar Yatonokami or “夜刀の神” in kanji, translates curiously to “God of the Night Sword.” At first glance, it’s reminiscent of a hideaway for a Law & Order: SVU perp. It’s dark, weird, and oddly inviting.

Inside, the “decor” feels more like an exotic pet store than a trendy bar. Rows of commercial shelving surround the tiny space, lined with more than 100 terrariums, each home to a scaley critter or two. A basic desk serves as the makeshift bar with only the most essential liquors. You’ll find no 30-year-old Scotch or Frozen Coronaritas served here. It’s a no-nonsense space with only functional seating and lighting. Here, the reptiles are the stars of the show.

Typical kitten cafes are noisy and active. In contrast, because reptiles are naturally quiet, the atmosphere at Bar Yatonokami is serene. This allows visitors to chat one-on-one with owner Nishikawa about his collection. Guests can stay as long as they like and handle any critters they choose including everything from crested geckos and bearded dragons to tarantulas and jungle snakes, but only for 30 minutes at a time to minimize stress on the animals.

Japan’s niche animal cafes — including cat cafes and more exotic establishments like the Tokyo Snake Center — have exploded in popularity in recent years. Bar Yatonokami isn’t the country’s first reptile cafe; the current list includes Kobe’s Reptile Cafe and Bar Arrive, Yokohama’s Reptile Cafe, and Osaka’s Reptile Cafe Again. But, Bar Yatonokami is unique in that it’s primarily driven by Nishikawa’s deep passion for reptiles. He hopes to break down visitors’ preconceived notions about the oft-maligned creatures, namely that they’re creepy, dirty, and less than ideal as pets. On the contrary, Nishikawa promises they’re actually quiet, relatively clean, low maintenance critters that only require food every few days.

Bar Yatonokami is open seven days a week. While the Japanese bar scene often feels insular, even downright unwelcoming, to outsiders, Nishikawa actively invites foreigners, first-time visitors, and anyone with a curiosity about the animal world. Be warned, however: you may even wind up taking one home.


BMW’s M850i xDrive Is Perfect for When the Road Is Long and the Pursuit Is Pleasure

BMW has been out of the grand touring game for some time but the rebirth of the 8 Series gives the brand an aspirational model it so desperately needs.

‘Sea’ the Ocean in a Whole New Way with the Looker 370 Glass Bottom Boat

The perfect party boat for you and 29 of your fish-loving friends.
Fashion & Style

Sunny Days Are Ahead: Shop the Best Sunglasses for Men in Spring 2019

If at first, it feels unconventional to shop for the best sunglasses during the depths of winter (well, for most of us, at least), then just know that spring and summer are just around the corner.

Oars + Alps is Now Available Offline in a Target Near You

No more waiting for delivery. Oars + Alps is the go-to natural skincare brand for every outdoor adventurer.

‘App in the Air’ Could Help Travelers Survive the Next Government Shutdown

It's like an airport survival kit in your pocket. It will be handy long after the government shutdown ends (again).

The Palms Casino’s Newest High-Roller Suites Have a Bowling Alley and Whiskey Room

The Hardwood Suite is a basketball-centric masterpiece, while the Kingpin suite is a bowling bro's paradise.

10 Reasons to Visit Norway in 2019

The picturesque ruggedness of Norway is just part of the appeal of what may arguably be one of the most beautiful countries on the planet.

Celebrate Your Single-ness This Valentine’s Day with a Cheap Vacation

Contiki is looking to make solo celebrations even better with deeply discounted travel packages for Singles Awareness Day.

Win a Private Island Getaway for You and 7 of Your Closest Friends

Bring the entire squad on an ultra-luxe Belizean getaway worthy of a one-percenter.

The Jamaican Villa Where Ian Fleming Created James Bond is for Rent and It Is Amazing

You can vacation at the birthplace of secret agent 007, complete with butlers to make your martinis.

PlugVan Converts Most Vans Into Full-Fledged Campers in 5 Minutes

Your van can be backcountry-ready for the weekend and back to work Monday morning.

Enjoy a Different Kind of Island Life at this Private Scottish Escape

Eilean Shona is a self-described, lakefront “Neverland” where visitors are encouraged to appreciate the lost art of sitting still and doing nothing.

Travel Switzerland Like a Gentleman Aboard the Luxury Glacier Express

You can sip cognac like a sophisticate aboard Europe's most iconic and breathtaking rail journey.

You Can ‘Find Yourself’ on these Ultra-Luxurious, Wellness-Inspired Tours

It's so much easier to "find yourself" amid Egyptian cotton sheets and daily spa treatments.