Social Issues

Japan ‘café’ allows adults to be children for a day

By Edurne Morillo

Tokyo, Dec 7 (EFE).- In Japan, where birth rates have been declining for years, an initiative is giving grownups the chance to experience what it is like to be an infant for a day by visiting a café where every item and piece of furniture is oversized.

The “café” hopes to boost empathy with children and increase understanding of some of the difficulties youngsters face every day.

A giant head, oversized portions and furniture more suited to giants are just some of the elements that go into the “Child for a day” café in the heart of Tokyo.

The café, which belongs to the Itochu company, one of the largest commercial conglomerates in the country, allows you to see things from the perspective of small children, with cups, cookies and cakes that are far too large even for adults, as are the chairs and tables.

“It’s about experiencing being a child again and knowing how heavy the head can be for the baby or how much food is presented to it,” Tokuko Metani, head of Corporate Brand Initiative at Itochu, explains to EFE.

Visitors are greeted by a giant, 45 centimeter head, which highlights the lack of proportion between babies’ heads and their bodies and which weighs about 21 kilos.

“This café, although it can be enjoyed by children, is designed for adults,” adds Metani.

A typical 2-year-old’s breakfast is also on display, with all the staples such as the milk carton and the toast, which are twice their normal size.

“When you see them, maybe it’s easier to understand why kids take so long to eat or why they spill things,” Metani says.

The center also incorporates Virtual Reality (VR), where they can see giant figures – representing adults – scolding them as though they were children, which from that height, can be a humbling if not frightening experience.

Visitors can also try on the classic Japanese elementary school backpack, which, in this scaled up version for adults, weighs about 19 kilos.

Itochu, the company behind the café experience, has been implementing measures since 2013 to ensure that its workers start their working day earlier, prohibits work after 8 pm and offers its own daycare centers for its staff, in an effort to improve employees’ work-life balance.

These initiatives have unexpectedly translated into an increase in the company’s fertility rate, from 0.60 children per woman in 2013 to 1.97 children by 2022, above the Tokyo average, which stood at 1.08 children in that year, and the national average, at 1.30.

Last year, the number of newborns in Japan fell by 5.1% to below 800,000, a historic low, while people aged 65 and over now account for 29% of the total population, making Japan the second most aging country in the world.

Faced with a demographic crisis, Japan launched a new government agency in April to coordinate policies aimed at supporting childbearing and parenting which wants to create “a child-centered society” where children’s voices are heard.

“I hope that the experience of cafes like this one can serve as a lesson to adults,” Metani concludes. EFE


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