“Kawaii” means “cute” in Japanese, and in Japan, kawaii is everywhere. It’s the latest buzzword, with sweet-inspired nail art, giraffe shaped road signs and teddy-bear cakes all earning kawaii kudos. Make no mistake, Machida is no exception. So if you’re on a quest for cute, then make Machida a must.
Japan has embarked upon a kawaii obsession that shows no signs of dwindling. It’s invading the radio waves with girl bands like AKB48, a J-pop group made up of 48 teens to twenty-somethings. It’s at the fore-front of fashion with musician Kyary Pamyu Pamyu sporting that melting chocolate dress at a concert. Not to be confused with kowai, meaning scary, the obsession with cute culture is frighteningly addictive. You are likely to find yourself on a quest for cute-things-to-do on your trip to Japan. So look no further. Welcome to Machida!
First stop is Machida Squirrel Garden. Squirrel Garden? I hear you say. That’s right. In a country where furry or feathered friends – from cats, to goats, or owls – populate the animal cafes, why not experience a Squirrel Garden?
Fun and family friendly, Machida Squirrel Garden truly is a delight for all ages. For starters, it’s inhabited by squirrels, rabbits, turtles and parrots to name just a few. The main attractions are the Pallas’s squirrels from Taiwan, which will have even the most skeptical visitor squealing with pleasure in minutes. Within the Squirrel Garden there are dozens of colourful wooden huts for the squirrels to play in, and what’s more, the squirrels are extremely curious and comfortable with approaching new visitors.
All visitors are provided with a mitten at the entrance to the garden, so can walk around feeding the squirrels for as long as they like. (Within reason, the garden does close at 4pm!) A bag of sunflower seeds costing just 100yen buys you their friendship for at least an hour.
On the bushy-tailed bandwagon yet? You should be. While you’re there, look out for Sachiko and Junko, the resident land turtles. They roam the Squirrel Garden freely and are surprisingly quick for their impressive 60kg weight. And the fun doesn’t stop there, if you time your trip on a weekend you can pet the rabbits and guinea pigs too. (Saturdays and Sundays 10.30am-12.00pm and 13.00pm-15.30pm.)
All this awaits you after a short 15 minute bus ride from Machida Station. Just hop on Bus Number 53/55 from Bus Stop No. 21 close to the Odakyu Line Exit of Machida Station and enjoy the novelty of this leafy garden. Entrance is 400yen for adults and 200yen for children. There is a Gift Shop as you exit for those wishing to take home a squirrel themed souvenir.
After all that fun, you’ve earnt a coffee break. Or perhaps a catnap? So head back to Machida station, the next stop on this cute-quest is the Machida Cat Cafe called Neko no Mise. Pull up a chair or settle down with a book. You won’t want to miss these kawaii kitties.
These friendly felines know best, lazing on the heated carpet while you play copy-cat relaxing on a sofa. In addition to the 20 or-so cats, the cafe is also home to a selection of manga and offers all-you-can drink beverages for 350yen. Neko no Mise is clean, comfortable and cosy. Plus, it physically couldn’t be closer to Machida Station. It’s open noon to 10pm daily and costs 150yen for 10 minutes. There’s no rush, and no need to reserve. You pay at the end of your stay.
Keep your eyes peeled for other cute curiosities. It’s official, kawaii is the new cool.
For more information → http://www.odakyu.jp/english/course/machikama/index.html#map