There’s a Japanese Travel Agency for Stuffed Animals (Because of Course There Is)

You think you’re feeling cooped up and need to get out and explore? What about that teddy bear of yours that hasn’t emerged from your storage closet since 1985?

A Japanese travel agency, Unagi Travel, which calls itself a “travel agency for stuffed animals,” has been taking plush animals on trips for the last three years. Why? To allow their owners to live vicariously through them. In fact, many of Unagi Travel’s customers are physically impaired. Well, and photos of traveling stuffed animals are cute.​”I want to see and walk around the sights that I viewed through my stuffed animal’s journeys someday,” said a 51-year-old woman, impaired by an illness that makes it difficult for her to walk, to the Japan News.

Unagi Travel’s Sonoe Azuma has shepherded more than 200 stuffed animals on trips. Be it a bike tour of Tokyo or a cross-Pacific journey to the United States, Azuma posts many of the photos of the traveling stuffed animals on Unagi Travel’s Facebook page (which is about to become your time waster of the day).

Stuffed animal travel is decidedly more affordable than the human kind: tours are priced between $20 and $55, depending on what the stuffed animals are getting up to. And just in case your stuffed animal likes the element of surprise, there are mystery tours, where your stuffed friend takes off to an unknown location.

Sound weird? Azuma’s clients love it; according to her about 40 percent of her clientele are repeat customers.

“I’m happy if my activities encourage those who can’t be positive to take a step forward,” Azuma said.

Just like your garden gnome taking a trip around the world, but better.

American arrested for stealing 299 stuffed birds

Here’s a new low in the annals of crime. An American man has been arrested in England for stealing 299 stuffed birds from the Natural History Museum in Tring, Hertfordshire, England.

The unnamed 22 year-old has been arrested in connection with a break in at the museum back in June. The birds that were stolen were all rare and would have fetched a fair amount on the black market, showing that the unnamed suspect knew what he was doing. Most of the stuffed birds have now been recovered.

The Natural History Museum at Tring is famous for its collection of more than 750,000 preserved birds, 95% of all the world’s species. If you’re not in the neighborhood, you can still check out their species of the day, a feature running throughout 2010 in celebration of the UN’s International Year of Biodiversity. Today’s species is the Welwitschia mirabilis, a plant that can live for up to 1,500 years despite living in the harsh Namib Desert.

This seems to be a mixed year for museums. Hundreds of historic treasures have gone missing in Pennsylvania and the Met had to fork over some stolen Egyptian artifacts.

On the bright side, museum attendance is up as people try to save money by visiting sights close to home. Hopefully none of these folks are stuffing dead critters into their coats.

[Photo courtesy Sarah Hartwell]

75,000 teddy bears left behind in hotels every year

This has got to be the saddest statistic I’ve heard in a long time.

Just think of it–seventy-five thousand teddy bears wondering why they got left behind. Seventy-five thousand distraught owners. Seventy-five thousand hotel owners frantically calling Teddy Bear Protection Services to get the bears emotional support.

It gets worse.

The figure is only for bears lost and returned last year at one hotel chain–Travelodge. Granted it’s one of the biggest budget chains in Europe with 380 hotels and 6.5 million guests last year, but think what the statistics must be globally. While Travelodge has made heroic efforts to reunite teddies with their families, it’s obvious the UN needs to gets involved.

Faced with this problem Travelodge did a bit of research and surveyed 6,000 people about their teddies. They made the surprising discovery that teddies are popular with adults too. A third of adults go to bed with a stuffed animal, and 25 percent of men take teddies on business trips with them. Respondents said it’s comforting to go to bed with a teddy, and psychologists say having a cuddly friend from home helps people feel comfortable in a strange place.

It’s heartening to see teddies enjoying travel. Some bears even have their own blogs, like Travel Schlepp, who is currently in Taiwan and offers some good advice on what to pack when going to Asia this season. BBC travel correspondent Misery Bear tells of the dangers of visiting the beach.

Just remember, teddy friends, to check your bed before checking out. You don’t want to leave your best friend behind.

Cute teddy photo courtesy user Mike R via Wikimedia Commons.

Photo of the Day (07.26.10)

Having a mascot for your trip or an item that always travels with you is a neat way to add a personal twist to your adventure. We’ve touched on this before with the hula girl in Calgary photo. I’ve even done it myself with a little friend who followed me around Tasmania. That’s why I was thrilled to see this image by Flickr user skinnymalinky1 in the Gadling Flickr pool.

What was Squiggly doing in Salzburg, Austria? Does he have his own passport? Did he insist on sleeping in the top bunk on the overnight train? [Sigh] We may never know. But he looks happy and that’s all that really matters.

Do you have a travel mascot who joins you wherever you go? Or maybe you just have some amazing pictures from your last trip? Submit your images to Gadling’s Flickr group right now and we might use it for a future Photo of the Day.

SkyMall Monday: Spa Teddy Bear

I stay pretty active when I’m not holed up in the SkyMall Monday headquarters testing products. If I’m not wrestling tigers, dog sledding or setting an orphanage on fire saving orphans from a burning building, I’m nursing my aching muscles. Living an active life leaves me sore and in need of comfort. But, sadly, I live alone in the SkyMall Monday headquarters and there’s no one to help nurse me back to health. Sure, I could go to a spa and pay someone for a massage, but that would require leaving my home and interacting with human beings. That just sounds taxing. No, I need something that will soothe me physically and spiritually while catering to my debilitating social anxiety disorder.

Thankfully, SkyMall understands that even us agoraphobic social pariahs need muscle relief. They know that we need warm hugs from soulless creatures who won’t feed our insecurities. They know that we need a plush toy that will be there when the rest of the world has turned their backs on us and labeled us “weird” or “not allowed near schools.” They know that we need a stuffed animal that we can put in the microwave and then rub on our naked bodies. They know that we need the Spa Teddy Bear.Look, not all of us have friends or lovers who will rub our bodies and release the stress of a hard workout or cathartic cry. Some of us need to turn to the only things that truly understand us: plush toys. Even those people who have been shunned by normal society and have sought solace in the inanimate love that dare not speak its name deserve to find muscle relief and reduction in swelling. The Spa Teddy Bear is there when the everyone else is not.

Perhaps you’re one of those people who think that stuffed animals are just for kids and have no business providing comfort to adults with sore muscles. That’s just intolerant. People like you make me sick. But, I’ll indulge your close-mindedness and let the SkyMall product description explain to you just how normal it is to find comfort in the warm embrace of a plush toy:

When everyone else leaves you cold, you will always have Hot Teddy, also known as Buddy D. Bear to give you an endless supply of cuddles. Just warm him up in the microwave and then get ready for some good hugging. Or if you are nursing a fever, chill him in the freezer and he will give you a cool, soothing hug.

You may have a wife, but can she fit in the microwave? I didn’t think so. And for you ladies whose flows may be heavier than others, Buddy D. Bear “can even ease away monthly cramps.” I bet your boyfriend can’t do that. And when that boyfriend is sleeping with your younger, less menstruating sister, “Hot Teddy makes a great bedtime cuddle bear.

So, rather than try to cram that mail-order Russian bride into the freezer, why not let the Spa Teddy Bear do all that hard work for you? Whether he’s fresh from the microwave or chilled after “at least four hours” in the freezer, he’ll always smell like clove, cinnamon and eucalyptus. Your mail-order Russian bride will just smell like herring and packing tape.

And, if you and Buddy D. Bear decide to take things to the next level, his outer cover is washable. But before you consummate your love, be sure to let him cool. That microwave can make things hotter than you’re ready to handle.

So, stop judging those of us who are alone and instead help us treat those third-degree burns on our privates. You might just help us build our first real inter-personal relationship.

Check out all of the previous SkyMall Monday posts HERE.