A Fuzzy Itinerary

How far can you get on $52? If you’re in North or Central America, how about all the way to Tokyo, for a one-day guided tour — airfare included? Europeans are welcome, too, for $3 more, and those in South America or Africa can join for $3 on top of that. You just need to find the right travel agency. In this case, the agency is Tokyo-based Unagi Travel. The package they offer is pretty good, especially given the price and the fact that your flight is included:

This tour takes you on major sightseeing stops in Tokyo: Historic Asakusa, Meiji Jingu Shrine and a beautiful view of Tokyo from the Tokyo Tower. This is a 1 DAY tour. Leaving in the morning and coming back in the evening. We will not use a bullet train or stay at a hotel/Japanese-style inn.

Sounds like a great opportunity, right? If you’re interested, you can sign up on the travel agency’s website, right here. But there’s a catch. First, the “airfare” comes with an envelope — the agency offers to pay to have you express shipped to their offices. Second, you have to be a stuffed animal.

Really: Unagi Travel is a self-described “travel agency for stuffed animals.”

The apparently-not-a-joke company started in 2010, when the founder, named Sonoe Azuna, left her career in finance aiming for, one gathers, more meaningful work. According to Kotaku Australia, Unagi Travel is an off-shoot of a blog that Azuna had put together where her own stuffed animal, an eel, traveled throughout the region. Azuma posted photos of these “travels” for her friends, and it proved a lot more popular than she imagined. So, she expanded the tours to include the stuffed animals of strangers — for a fee.

Three years later, she was still in business. In late 2013, Azuna 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.” And while your teddy bear or licensed plush is having the time of its life under Azuna’s care, her company is making you a keepsake. The Toyko package comes with a handwritten postcard from your friend (although obviously not written by it, unless your stuffed animal is extra, extra-special) and a commemorative photograph. And that’s not all. Participants on an Unagi tour have their photos posted to the travel agency’s Facebook page, here — even stuffed animals can share vacation photos via social media! — as a travel journal of sorts. (Yes, they also tweet.) When the stuffed animal’s whirlwind vacation is over, Unagi mails it back.

While this sounds incredibly frivolous — reasonably priced, though — in some cases, it may not be. CNN profiled Azuma’s company and noted the case of a woman who withdrew from society after an illness made it difficult for her to walk. She sent her toy on an Unagi vacation, and the experience was therapeutic for the woman herself:

[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.”

And even if that doesn’t happen, what teddy bear doesn’t want to see Toyko?

Bonus Fact: In 2006, a teddy bear caused the death of roughly 2,500 fish in New Hampshire. The bear fell into a trout hatchery and clogged the drain, blocking the oxygen flow and causing the fish to suffocate. As NBC News reported, the bear in question (a Paddington Bear with a yellow hat) was “believed to be the first stuffed bear to cause fatalities at the facility.”

From the ArchivesJapan’s First NHL Player: Your teddy bear can’t visit him while on vacation, sorry.

RelatedA Paddington Bear with a yellow hat. Don’t drop it in a fishery; do send it to Tokyo, I guess?