How not to Dine Alone in Japan
It is a mark of our hurly-burly times that lack of meaningful human companionship can become an issue. Blame it on lifestyles, competing career graphs et al; but we have legions of people in urban areas feeling lonely at some point. But trust the enterprising — often surreal — Japanese to try and come up with some sort of palliative. Enter the “anti-loneliness” café, where the single traveller can sit down to a meal with some company. In this case, a stuffed hippo-like thingummy called, for whatever earthly reason, a Moomin. What apparently happens is that once you walk into this café, and place your order, the Moomin is brought out and placed near the table. You then have company, and feel much better. It isn’t clear whether patrons of the café attempt to initiate a conversation with the thingummy — you know, about the weather and where you are from and where you’re heading sort of small talk. It also isn’t clear whether, this being Japan, the Moomin emits any robotic sounds, etc. Though, clearly, some form of intuitive AI conversationalist stuffed toy hippo would be of some help in keeping the talk going. Then, why stop at merely having this stellar company when dining? Surely, a grown man or woman can, well, have a version of taking the thingummy home. And what happens there might well be another story….