Published on Tuesday, 05 November 2013 00:00
Plushies lead very sad lives; if they are not always cooped up in a child's bedroom, they are collecting dust somewhere in a storeroom or an attic. Maybe it is time you treat your plushie to a holiday getaway with Unagi Travel
, a Japanese travel agency for stuffed animals, where they will be able to see the world for a very affordable price and return safely back into your arms.
Through Unagi Travel, you can send your beloved plush friend to anywhere in Japan, Europe or the United States for a price that will not leave a hole in your pocket. Your teddy bear can be taken on a “guided tour” of Tokyo for only US$45, or if you feel like Teddy deserves more, you can opt for the slightly more expensive package for Teddy to visit Japan's famous onsen (hot springs) for US$55.
All kinds of plushies are welcomed, Unagi Travel does not discriminate, only as long as they do not exceed 300 grams, this is so that it does not cause any complications during shipping and touring of sites. For the past 3 years, 38-year-old Sonoe Azuma who works with the agency has been the plushies' tourguide, bringing them around to tourist hot spots on vacation and day-trips.
Owners can also check on their plushies to make sure they are safe and sound or follow their activities through Unagi Travel's Facebook page
as Azuma documents all their trips and immortalize the precious moments through videos and photos.
"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 said. She started the business after being inspired from her blog which followed the exploits of her eel plushie and became a big hit among friends and readers.
As atypical of something bizarre Japan would do, this strange business is more heart-warming than it is WTF. Unagi Travel's target audience is for people who are not able to personally visit these picturesque places due to agoraphobia, medical reasons, physical conditions that inhibit their movement, or whatever else that prevents them from traveling. They are able to live vicariously through their plushie by tracking their plushies' movement and updates.
In many cases, it has proven to be very beneficial to their well-being. One woman who became a recluse after an illness struck which made it hard for her to walk, regained the confidence to gather her energy and step out of the house for the very first time in years after viewing pictures of her plushie's adventure.
“Seeing my stuffed animal traveling encouraged me. I began to think that I should do what I can do, instead of lamenting over things that I can’t,” the woman said.
There are many other people who have sent their plushies for a trip with Azuma and found the services therapeutic. Unagi Travel reported that even under the circumstances of tragic events that happened on their customers' parts, just by seeing their beloved stuffed companion visiting beautiful locations around the world cheered them up and inspired them to put themselves out there to try new things.