New cafe is a literal hole-in-the-wall, where you’ll be served by fluffy bears.

Japan was famous for its tiny ‘hole-in-the-wall’ bars and eateries long before the pandemic, but now that people are more concerned about protecting their personal spaces while eating out, literal ‘hole-in-the-wall’ places are becoming even more popular.

As it turns out, this style of service, where customers collect their orders from a hole in the wall, is ideal for staff as well. And for those wanting to work but unable to, due to mental health challenges and sensitivities connected to face-to-face contact, contactless services like these can open up all sorts of new opportunities for employment.

That’s the aim of the new “Kuma no Te” (“Bear Paw“) cafe set to open in Osaka this month. Run by Mental Support, an academy that’s been providing support and counselling to individuals for the past 12 years, the new cafe is designed to be a safe space where those undergoing therapy can overcome their fears of reintegrating into society due to mental health challenges.

With face-to-face contact being a stress trigger for a number of their clients, Mental Health came up with the brilliant idea of setting up a cafe where staff don’t have to see or be seen by customers. And the problem of skin-to-skin contact was also solved with fluffy bear gloves, which staff use to hand out drinks and sweets through the small opening in the wall.

▼ The storefront may not have any doors or windows, but its cave-like appearance is still eye-catching.

Six staff members will be on the roster at the Bear Paw Cafe when it opens, and all are graduates or current students at the Mental Support Academy. The company has shared the following background details for their current employees:

1. Depression for about five years, currently undergoing therapy
2. HSP (Highly Sensitive Person) and childhood trauma due to domestic violence
3. Adjustment disorder, currently undergoing therapy
4. HSP (Highly Sensitive Person)
5. Hikikomori (social withdrawal), currently looking for a job
6. A mother with a personality disorder who has a son with a learning disability

Mental Support describes the cafe as a healing place that contributes to society and acts as a stepping stone towards rehabilitation for those who need it. While the new cafe is certainly staff-focused, customers are also a priority, as the store aims to bring smiles to the faces of visitors with its fun delivery system and menu of delicious drinks and parfaits.

▼ You can’t help but smile when you’re being served by a furry bear in a cave!

While payment and ordering methods are yet to be revealed, it’s likely there’ll be a machine out the front, similar to the ones used at ramen restaurants, or some type of cashless payment system allowing customers to pre-pay online before picking up their order.

With the help of customers, Mental Support hopes the initiative will become popular so they can start more cafes and help other people in different locations in future. The Bear Paw Cafe is set to open in Osaka, a short two-minute walk from Osaka-Uehonmachinishi Station, on 11 September.

Cafe Information

Kuma no Te Cafe / クマの手カフェ
Address: Osaka-fu, Osaka-shi, Chuo-ku, Uehonmachinishi 5-3-11, 1F
大阪府中央区上本町西 5-3-11 ・ 1F
Hours: 10:00 a.m.-8:00 p.m. (Irregular holidays)

Source, images: PR Times
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