It's pretty common, if not ubiquitous, to pile your bed with Gunds and Sanrio plushes when you're in the throes of elementary school or even into your teen years. Who needs real friends when you can stare into the soulful plastic eyes of a polyester tabby or revel in the touch of a boneless purple monkey?
Of course, most kids eventually outgrow their need to cuddle with and talk to inanimate analogs of animals—either because they move on to tormenting a living, breathing guinea pig or merely because the cynicism of the world takes over and our imaginations get crushed into a fine powder and snorted by reality. Wiggles and Moopy get put in a cardboard box, then the attic, and then the trash bag headed to Goodwill. O, the fickle nature of childhood friendships.
Unless, that is, you live in Japan, where some 85 percent of adult women own stuffed animals—maybe because the code of cuteness seems better cracked over there. (Pikachu, Totoro, Rilakkuma ... sigh.) And a new Tokyo restaurant called Yawarakan's Cafe is looking to tap into the market of true plushy devotees.
According to RocketNews24, the cafe, which will open on July 28, is exclusively for stuffed animals, and that includes its staff. Yep—this is, by all appearances, a human-free zone where you can really wild out on your need to live vicariously through a cotton-stuffed sloth or flounder.
In the same way that many people now send their dogs or cats to pet hotels to be cared for, fed, and pampered while their human guardians are on vacation, Japanese denizens can now pay real actual money to (literally) ship off their beloved plushies to the cafe for a three-day adventure.
Yawarakan's Cafe is reservation-only, so you've got to mail your stuffed animals—which must be the size of a hand, or smaller, due to spatial restrictions. Sorry, no walk-ins. But on their arrival, your beloved "pet" ("friend?") is seated and receives a three-berry smoothie "prepared by resident chef Hebi-chan the snake." Hebi-chan's culinary prowess is certainly impressive considering he has no arms!
For their entrees, stuffed animals receive a stack of ten pancakes and a rice omelet skillfully presented with their name written in ketchup by Karei the flounder, who is also the restaurant's "owner." And as a digestif for their innards of fluff, coffee is served by a monkey named Saru Hasegawa. The website notes that the beans are a blend sourced from Peru and Tasmania.
Then, everyone plays cards and tells ghost stories. And by "everyone," we don't mean you. We mean the stuffed animal you paid to mail to a miniature cafe staffed by other stuffed animals.
Then, it's off to bed. Is your stuffed octopus going to smoke cigarettes with someone else's toy plush kangaroo? Or have a late-night hookup with Karei the flounder? You may never know.
Then, your stuffie is returned to you—again, via mail—with some souvenirs. Specifically, a photo album of your little dude partying, a coaster, and a bag of brown sugar cubes. And naturally, there's a stamp card system, in case you're a creature of habit. The habit of pretending your stuffed animal is a living entity that you need to spend money feeding and providing entertainment for.
Speaking of which, how much does this whole to-do cost? Well, you'll be forking over 4,968 yen—the equivalent of about US$40—for your little buddy's experience. Hope that omelet isn't the least bit rubbery. There's no way people are going to pay that much for something so stupid, right?
Wrong. The cafe's reservations are fully booked through mid-September.
You can roll your eyes at the supply. But when the demand's there, who's crying now?