Japanese travel agency offers package trips for stuffed toys
Unable to get to that must-see tourist site but can't bear for your teddy to miss out too? 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 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 US$45, plus travel - by parcel post - from and to the toy's home address.
The more adventurous might like to see some of the grand temples of the ancient capital of Kyoto for US$95, or unwind in hot spring baths - a snip at US$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 … or too busy," tour operator Sonoe Azuma, 39, said.
A form sent to owners ahead of the trip asks for the toy tourist's name, personality, if they are prone to car-sickness sea-sickness, or allergic to any food.
Azuma, who used to work in finance, takes her task seriously.
"Anyone could do it if it was simply about taking pictures of stuffed animals … You must do this with the belief that 'I'm taking care of other people's children'," she said.
A satisfied customer in her 40s, who did not want to be named, said: "I enjoyed the scenery or the food through [the toys'] eyes, even if I was not there … [To] my Japanese friends, it's a very natural thing."