Travel tours for stuffed toys a hit with the elderly, disabled



Elderly and disabled people, as well as those too busy to travel, haven taken to booking holiday tours for their stuffed toys.

Ecocoro Tokushima, a supplier of nursing care products based in the town of Itano, Tokushima Prefecture, organizes these tour packages, which come complete with photographs of the toys posing at popular tourist hots pots.

Tours offered by the company’s Sudachi Travel division include a visit to three of the 88 temples associated with the Buddhist monk Kukai on the Shikoku pilgrimage trail, which costs ¥2,160, and a trip to the Naruto whirlpools by high-speed boat, priced at ¥3,980.

Owners initially send their toys to Sudachi by door-to-door delivery service. Company leader Namiko Miki and her team of staff then escort the toys to the desired destination, accompanied by Tokushima regional mascot Sudachi-kun, who acts as their tour guide. A minimum number of participants is set for each tour.

Miki and her staff take photos of the toys at the tourist spots, posting them on Facebook in real time. They also send postcards from the different locations back to the owners.

After the tours, the toys are returned by mail, along with CDs containing the photos and souvenirs from the trip.

In September, the Harukaze day care service center for the elderly, also located in Itano, sent stuffed toys owned by its members on a tour to pick “sudachi” citrus fruit, as part of the center’s recreational program.

Toys entrusted to the center by about 30 people in their 70s to 90s were taken on the tour and the owners later passed around the photos and postcards they had received.

“This temple is a place of my memories as I visited it 30 years ago,” one of them said.

Noboru Fujita, 95, was delighted to receive a sudachi fruit as a souvenir of the tour, saying, “I want (my stuffed toy) to go traveling again.”

About 40 toy tours have been organized since they were launched in March 2014. The organizer also has plans to launch similar tours overseas.