Travel Dec. 07, 2013 – 06:12AM JST
Tokyo (AFP) —
Unable to get to that must-see tourist site but can’t bear for your teddy to miss out? Then Japan has just the thing for you—a travel agency that takes stuffed toys on package tours and even provides the holiday snaps to prove it.
Tokyo-based Unagi (Eel) Travel has a range of offers to suit every cuddly companion’s purse.
For instance, a day trip around sightseeing spots in the Japanese capital is $45, plus travel—by parcel post—from and to the toy’s home address.
The more adventurous bear might like to see some of the grand temples and shrines of the ancient capital of Kyoto for $95, or unwind in the hot spring baths that dot volcanic Japan—a snip at $55.
“Some clients join tours simply because it seems fun but there are also people who want to send stuffed animals as their proxies since they can’t travel by themselves, because they are in hospital, handicapped or too busy,” tour operator Sonoe Azuma told AFP.
“A client asked me to take her companion up some stairs and walk through narrow streets she can’t go into with her wheelchair.
“Another client wanted her animal to get a lot of sunshine as she can’t go outside because of a skin disease.”
A form sent to teddy owners ahead of the trip asks for the tourist’s name, if they are prone to car-sickness or sea-sickness, and if they are allergic to a particular food.
Owners are invited to give a bit of background about the participant’s character, such as what their hobbies are and why they are joining the tour.
On a recent tour of Tokyo, to which an AFP team was invited, a menagerie of creatures were entrusted to Azuma’s care.
The group included a tiger from Osaka, a shark from Kanagawa, a rather well-loved Hello Kitty from Hyogo and a small version of Sesame Street’s Big Bird from Hokkaido. They were escorted around Tokyo by the agency’s resident tour guide, eel girl Unasha.
After an early morning briefing on what to expect, participants were gently packed up and taken to the expansive Meiji Jingu Shrine before heading for the Imperial Palace gardens, where Azuma carefully spread out a towel for the gang to sit on as they posed for one of many group photos of the day.