There's a travel agency that will take your stuffed animals on vacation.

How far can you get on $52? If you're in North or Central America, how about all the way to Tokyo, for a one-day guided tour — airfare included?

Europeans are welcome, too, for $3 more, and those in South America or Africa can join for $3 on top of that.

You just need to find the right travel agency.


In this case, the agency is Tokyo-based Unagi Travel. The package they offer is pretty good, especially given the price and the fact that flight is included:

"This tour takes you on major sightseeing stops in Tokyo: Historic Asakusa, Meiji Jingu Shrine and a beautiful view of Tokyo from the Tokyo Tower. This is a 1 DAY tour. Leaving in the morning and coming back in the evening. We will not use a bullet train or stay at a hotel/Japanese-style inn."

Sounds like a great opportunity, right? If you're interested, you can sign up on the travel agency's website.

But there's a catch.

First, the "airfare" comes with an envelope — the agency offers to pay to have you express shipped to their offices. Second, you have to be a stuffed animal.

Really. Unagi Travel is a self-described "travel agency for stuffed animals."

Your very own teddy bear could go on a trip all the way to Tokyo! Image via Thinkstock.

The apparently-not-a-joke company started in 2010, when the founder, named Sonoe Azuma, left her career in finance aiming for, one gathers, more meaningful work.

According to Kotaku Australia, Unagi Travel is an offshoot of a blog that Azuma put together where her own stuffed animal, an eel, traveled throughout the region. Azuma posted photos of these "travels" for her friends, and it proved a lot more popular than she imagined.

So, she expanded the tours to include the stuffed animals of strangers — for a fee. Three years later, she was still in business.

In late 2013, Azuma told the Japan Times that she takes these tours very seriously. She noted that while "anyone could do it if it was simply about taking pictures of stuffed animals," she is more responsible, acting as if she were "taking care of other people's children."

And while your teddy bear or licensed plush is having the time of its life under Azuma's care, her company is making you a keepsake.

The Tokyo package comes with a handwritten postcard from your friend (although obviously not written by it, unless your stuffed animal is extra, extra-special) and a commemorative photograph.

And that's not all. Participants on an Unagi tour have their photos posted to the travel agency's Facebook page, here — even stuffed animals can share vacation photos via social media! — as a travel journal of sorts. (Yes, they also tweet.)

When the stuffed animal's whirlwind vacation is over, Unagi mails it back.

Think that teddy can really see anything? Image via Thinkstock.

While this sounds incredibly frivolous — though reasonably priced — in some cases, it may not be.

CNN profiled Azuma's company and noted the case of a woman who withdrew from society after an illness made it difficult for her to walk.

She sent her toy on an Unagi vacation and the experience was therapeutic for the woman herself.

"[She] saw the photos of her stuffed animal on one of Azuma's tours. She worked to rehabilitate her legs and visited a neighboring prefecture for the first time in several years. “Seeing my stuffed animal traveling encouraged me," said the woman. “I began to think that I should do what I can do, instead of lamenting over things that I can't."

And even if that doesn't happen, what teddy bear doesn't want to see Tokyo?

Dan Lewis runs the popular daily newsletter Now I Know ("Learn Something New Every Day, By Email"). To subscribe to his daily email, click here.

Courtesy of Verizon
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If someone were to say "video games" to you, what are the first words that come to mind? Whatever words you thought of (fun, exciting, etc.), we're willing to guess "healthy" or "mental health tool" didn't pop into your mind.

And yet… it turns out they are. Especially for Veterans.

How? Well, for one thing, video games — and virtual reality more generally — are also more accessible and less stigmatized to veterans than mental health treatment. In fact, some psychiatrists are using virtual reality systems for this reason to treat PTSD.

Secondly, video games allow people to socialize in new ways with people who share common interests and goals. And for Veterans, many of whom leave the military feeling isolated or lonely after they lose the daily camaraderie of their regiment, that socialization is critical to their mental health. It gives them a virtual group of friends to talk with, connect to, and relate to through shared goals and interests.

In addition, according to a 2018 study, since many video games simulate real-life situations they encountered during their service, it makes socialization easier since they can relate to and find common ground with other gamers while playing.

This can help ease symptoms of depression, anxiety, and even PTSD in Veterans, which affects 20% of the Veterans who have served since 9/11.

Watch here as Verizon dives into the stories of three Veteran gamers to learn how video games helped them build community, deal with trauma and have some fun.

Band of Gamers www.youtube.com

Video games have been especially beneficial to Veterans since the beginning of the pandemic when all of us — Veterans included — have been even more isolated than ever before.

And that's why Verizon launched a challenge last year, which saw $30,000 donated to four military charities.

And this year, they're going even bigger by launching a new World of Warships charity tournament in partnership with Wargaming and Wounded Warrior Project called "Verizon Warrior Series." During the tournament, gamers will be able to interact with the game's iconic ships in new and exciting ways, all while giving back.

Together with these nonprofits, the tournament will welcome teams all across the nation in order to raise money for military charities helping Veterans in need. There will be a $100,000 prize pool donated to these charities, as well as donation drives for injured Veterans at every match during the tournament to raise extra funds.

Verizon is also providing special discounts to Those Who Serve communities, including military and first responders, and they're offering a $75 in-game content military promo for World of Warships.

Tournament finals are scheduled for August 8, so be sure to tune in to the tournament and donate if you can in order to give back to Veterans in need.

Courtesy of Verizon

Ready for the weekend? Of course, you are. Here's our weekly dose of good vibes to help you shed the stresses of the workweek and put yourself in a great frame of mind.

These 10 stories made us happy this week because they feature amazing creativity, generosity, and one super-cute fish.

1. Diver befriends a fish with the cutest smile

Hawaiian underwater photographer Yuki Nakano befriended a friendly porcupine fish and now they hang out regularly.

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