Joining the ranks of Tokyo’s eccentric pet cafés and restaurants is Yawarakan’s, a place that exclusively caters to stuffed animals. It sounds like a hoax – who would spend money on serving real food to a bunch of toys, right? Well, you’re wrong. This is actually a thing in Japan, and apparently business is going great.
According to the restaurant’s owners, 85 percent of Japan’s adult female population owns at least one stuffed animal. 60 percent of these women actually decorate their beds with the cuddly toys. So they decided to find a way to tap into this market. They figured, if people are treating stuffed animals like real humans, then why not send the soft toys on vacation? So they created a café along the lines of a bed-and-breakfast, where the customers are all toys.
The lifeless patrons are mailed to the café, and once they arrive, they’re taken to their reserved table. Then they’re served real berry smoothies, prepared by the resident chef – Hebi-chan the snake (also a toy). The main course – a rice omelet – is cooked by Karei the flounder, with the stuffed animal’s name written across the top in ketchup. Later, Saru Hasegawa – the cheerful monkey waiter – pours out coffee for the guests. Stacks of pancakes with maple syrup are served for dessert.
Once the guests’ fluffy innards are full and the plates are cleared, the real entertainment begins. The toys sit in a circle and listen to one of Karei’s ghost stories. Then they all play cards together. The basic package includes one night’s lodging, so the toys turn in for the night with Karei tucking them in and reading them a soothing bedtime story. The next morning, the animals are packed and shipped back to their respective owners.
In true vacation style, they bring souvenirs back with them – a human sized coaster and brown sugar cubes. The package also includes a photo album commemorating the stuffed animal’s fun time, along with access to download the photos from the café’s website. Regular customers are given a frequent customer card – each visit gets you a stamp on the card and rewards such as pins, magnets, and mugs.
A basic package at Yawarakan’s Café costs 4,968 yen ($40). It seems silly to spend any money at all on food and lodging for a stuffed toy, but the concept is surprisingly popular. The café’s bi-monthly ‘spots’ are fully booked until mid-September!
Stuffed toys are a real market in Japan. Two years ago, we also featured Unagi Travel, a unique travel agency that caters exclusively to toys. Owners can send their plush buddies on a complete tour of Tokyo for $54 or on a relaxing vacation to one of Japan’s many onsen for $55. They’ll even document the trip and immortalize every moment through videos and photos.
Photos: Yawarakan’s Cafe/Facebook