Tokyo Woman Offers Unique Service for Pregnant or Sick People Who Want Their Favorite Stuffed Animals to Travel Instead of Them

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Stuffed animals pose for a photo at a miniature shrine, in Adachi Ward, Tokyo.

Kimiko Suzuki offers a unique service for people unable to travel — she will take their favorite stuffed animals on a trip instead and take commemorative photos for clients to enjoy.

Suzuki, 47, photographs stuffed animals on tours of Tokyo and uploads them on social media. Watching the “journeys” of their favorite stuffed animals, her customers feel a sense of healing.

Posting photos online

A group of seven stuffed animals, including a bear and a rabbit, arrived in a toy box on wheels at a cafe in Adachi Ward at the end of May. “Welcome! How cute!” a woman at the cafe said with a smile.

These stuffed animals had been sent to Suzuki from Osaka, Fukuoka, and other prefectures. On the same day, the group also toured a rice ball store, a library, and other locations. At the rice ball store, the staff asked: “Did you enjoy the food? The weather’s nice, isn’t it?”

When they visited a small shrine for stuffed toys at another store, they received a goshuin red ink stamp. Suzuki took pictures of smiling local residents and the stuffed animals, and put them on Instagram.

Overcoming disapproval

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Suzuki unfolds a map of the city and pretends to have lunch with stuffed animals, in Adachi Ward, Tokyo.

Suzuki has always loved stuffed toys, and she kept them close and cherished them even after growing up. One day she learned that other stuffed animal lovers had been shocked when people around them said things like, “You’re not mature enough.”

“Why is it wrong to treat stuffed animals with respect, when it is good to treat things with care? I want to create a place where people who love stuffed toys and suffer from a lack of understanding can connect with each other,” she thought.

Suzuki set up a miniature cafe for stuffed animals in her home nine years ago. She began treating stuffed animals sent to her from all over Japan as guests, serving them real pancakes and pizza, and taking photos of them and uploading them to social media.

Later, she began offering tours of the city on a monthly basis, with more than 500 toys participating so far. The tours are conducted only at stores that have shown understanding of her activities.

Loved like family

The clients are mostly women in their 20s to 50s who cherish their stuffed animals as if they were family members. Some of the clients have particular reasons, such as being unable to travel far due to illness, onerous nursing care duties, or being a couple without children.

Yumi Hirata, a 42-year-old office worker in Osaka who entrusted a stuffed bear named Rira-san to Suzuki, is expecting a baby in September. She has been hurt by the stares of her parents and others who do not like the fact that she cherishes stuffed animals even in adulthood.

Hirata was pleased when she saw a photo of Rira-san visiting a shrine on Suzuki’s Instagram. “I was anxious to be giving birth at my late age, but Rira-san made the trip instead and even prayed for a safe delivery at the shrine. It was reassuring,” she said.

Suzuki receives several thousand yen for the tours, but since she adds a souvenir when she sends the stuffed animals back, there is little profit left over.

“Stuffed toys are often seen as something only for children, but that’s not the case,” Suzuki said. “I hope that society will be kind enough to respect and accept what people like.”