OSAKA, JAPAN — Kuma no Te Cafe is a pop-up cafe in Osaka, Japan, that provides employment opportunities and support for people who have faced mental health challenges.
The cafe is run by the Mental Support Comprehensive Academy, a general incorporated association of counsellor training schools located in Yao City, Osaka Prefecture.
The unique cafe offers a “non-face-to-face, non-contact” method of service, where customers place their orders through a window, and a staff member wearing a bear hand up to their elbow passes the ordered goods through the window curtain. The cafe’s concept is centred around the idea that the fluffy bear hand and the non-face-to-face method create a soothing experience for customers.
Making its first appearance at the Hankyu Umeda main store in Kita-ku, Osaka this year during the Valentine’s Day period (20 Jan – 14 Feb), the cafe has since made appearances at different locations and events in Osaka.
The people working under the “bear” costumes are those who have suffered from mental wounds such as depression or social withdrawal. Taking examples from overseas as reference, the cafe opened in 2021 in Chuo-ku, Osaka City, to provide support for delicate people to work with peace of mind under the guidance of counsellors and other specialists.
A 26-year-old female company employee who visited the cafe during its Valentine’s Day appearance at Hankyu Umeda main store this year told reporter Maiko Umeda with a smile, “I was waved at and even shook hands. I can’t believe I received such great service.”
The 20-year-old woman who works as a “bear” said, “I get nervous when meeting face-to-face, but customers treat us like bears, so even if it takes a long time, they wait for us with excitement without getting angry, and I can feel it even through the curtain.”
The cafe owner and the 62-year-old school’s director, Yuichiro Hiramura, said, “I want to promote a kind society. If people know about those who work hard inside, not just a cafe that is cute for SNS (social networking service), it would be great.”
The Kuma no Te Cafe has gained popularity for its unique concept and has received positive feedback from customers who enjoy the soothing experience and appreciate the opportunity to support individuals who have faced mental health challenges.