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The Monkey Tavern: Kayabuki

Located in the pits of Utsunomiya is a small Izakaya called ‘Kayabukiya Tavern”; the only tavern in Japan to house five Monkey waiters. This has actually got to be one of the best things you could ever do in Japan, or in fact, the world, or your life.

Monkey Tavern 1

When you walk in, you’ll notice that the tavern itself seems rather ordinary. And by this, I mean that the place did not smell of monkey and there seemed to be no unhygienic signs that they were anywhere near my food.

In fact, since most restaurants with gimmicks are often let down by the quality of their food, I hadn’t expected it to be so good. It was real, hearty, traditional Japanese food. Not to mention, I got my first experience of the surprisingly delicious, grotesque-looking but nicely seasoned appetiser of snail-like creatures, which slimed and re-curled as they were prised from their impressive shells. Like most crazy things in Japan, it really worked. Definitely pluck up some courage and give these a go!

Monkey Tavern 2

Monkey Tavern 3

Of course, the monkeys were the main highlight. The restaurant owner, Kaoru Otsuka, paraded into the restaurant, proudly wearing five monkeys of varying sizes. The oldest jumped down every now and again to hand people hot napkins, while the others proceeded to the stage to do backflips or to lovingly groom each other, or the customers.

For a fee, you could get pictures with the monkeys, which is often a source of great entertainment for everyone else watching. I proceeded to have monkeys run up and down my arms, while other customers were lucky enough to be lovingly groomed by a few generous monkeys. And if you’re anything like me, you will leave this place wanting a monkey of your own.

Monkey Tavern 4

The monkeys only work for two hours each day and the time they appear can change daily. The best bet is to make a call in advance to make sure you don’t miss out. It really is a once in a lifetime, magical experience that I will never forget.

Monkey Tavern 5


Izakaya Kayabuki (居酒屋かやぶき)
Address: 4688 Miyukihonmachi, Utsunomiya-shi, Tochigi-ken, 321-0983
Opening Hours: 18:00 ~ 24:00, Open on Sundays. The monkeys will usually appear from around 7pm ~ 9pm (Call and check to avoid disappointment as times will vary daily).
Regular Holidays: Tuesdays
Phone: 028-662-3751 (Japanese only)
Access: You can take the Tohoku Shinkansen from Tokyo station or Ueno to Utsunomiya, then a taxi.

Article written by: Hazel Taylor


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