An adorable way to help deal with complex problems.

Last week, we reported on the upcoming Kuma no Te Cafe (Bear Paw Cafe), a unique take-out coffee shop in which your order is served by a big cuddly bear sticking its hand through the wall. Not only is this a whimsical way to get a coffee, but it addresses a number of social issues at the same time.

The obvious difference from most cafes is that Kuma no Te is simply a couple holes in the wall. The one on the left is where you give your order and pay, either with cash or using cashless payment. The hole is at about waist level, which feels odd at first but doesn’t really hinder your ability to order.

When your order is ready, a friendly bear will stick its paw out of the hole on the left and hand you your coffee, parfait or ice cream. It’s about as simple as you can get and at no time are you face-to-face with anyone which is a big plus in these disease-conscious times.

What many customers might not realize, however, is that the hand in that bear paw belongs to one of six students from Mental Support General School in the Umeda area of Osaka. They are recovering from a variety of emotional disorders who are gradually adjusting to re-enter society.

The cafe officially opens on 11 September, but I was able to get an advance sneak peak to feel the full bear paw experience.

Novelty cafes usually charge an arm and a leg, but I was surprised that Kuma no Te’s prices were pretty much in line with regular cafes. A decent-sized ice coffee costs 390 yen (US$3.55).

▼ Parfaits were also quite large, such as this giant muscat grape one for 880 yen ($8)

After placing my order for a coffee, I waited at the hole until…

It even handed me a complementary rose with my order, and gave a friendly wave before heading back to its den. Although the people behind the bears are highly sensitive, I was told this it is okay to interact with them by patting them or giving a high-five, but considering their situations its always advisable to respect their space and not be too aggressive.

The coffee is brewed in a different location and sent in, but it tastes fresh and similar to Starbucks, only mellower.

I also spoke with the head of Mental Support General School, Yuichiro Hiramura, who said that cats were considered for their cuteness and popularity, but bears had a certain sense of warmth and security that worked better. He also said that another Kuma no Te Cafe will probably open somewhere in Tokyo in the coming months, so keep an eye out any strange holes in the wall out there.

But for now, this first shop in the bustling area near Uehonmachi Station was already attracting a lot of attention from passersby, which bodes well for its success in the future.

Hopefully it does succeed, because it’s a great way to fit a really convenient bit of whimsy into your workday and also help some people work towards a better life for themselves.

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)

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