Toy Travel

by Kensatsukan Gaijin

The return of spring makes many of us 懐かしい for Japan and want to travel there again.  Unfortunately, it can be pretty expensive - especially as the Yen returns from its record low value. Fortunately, there is a way for part of your family to go to Japan and enjoy a vacation for a fraction of the cost - in this case, stuffed animals!  


The Japanese travel agency Unagi Travel ( offers trips such as a tour of Kamakura for a mere $55, and a tour of Tokyo for only $45. They accept offers from the U.S. and Europe, and even feature tours to hot springs.  There are also "mystery tours," which are priced at $35, and involve your stuffed friend getting on an airplane and jetting off to a mysterious location. So you can enjoy the trip along with your childhood toy, they will post pictures to Facebook as your 縫いぐるみ enjoys the best Japan has to offer. 


For the last three years, Sonoe Azuma, 38, of Unagi Travel has been organizing stuffed animal tours throughout Japan, Europe and the United States. There is a limit on size; according to Unagi rules, furry friends must be lighter than 250 grams/0.55 pounds. "So far, more than 200 stuffed animals have participated in the trips, and some of them sign up regularly. I would say 40 percent of my business is repeat customers," Azuma told The Yomiuri Shimbun. She now organizes ten trips a month and has even taken stuffed animals abroad to the U.S. and Europe.


In late 2013, Azuma told the Japan Times that she takes these tours very seriously. She noted that while "anyone could do it if it was simply about taking pictures of stuffed animals," she is more responsible, acting as if she were "taking care of other people's children."


You may wonder why people spend the money for this service, but for some people, it can be an inspiration.  According to the Japan News, one woman became reclusive after it became difficult for her to walk due to illness.  That changed after she saw the photos of her stuffed animal on one of Azuma’s tours. She worked to rehabilitate her legs and visited a neighboring prefecture for the first time in several years.  “Seeing my stuffed animal traveling encouraged me," said the woman. "I began to think that I should do what I can do, instead of lamenting over things that I can't




The Japan Times