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Research & Insight

The Inclusive Design Innovations Powering a Dining Revolution in Japan 

Japan has witnessed the introduction of some niche tech-enabled social innovation in the hospitality retail industry.

Japan is unique in that it's known for both its technological advancements and largely ageing population, both potentially excluding the elderly and disabled from participating in society in the traditional sense. 

One in five people in Japan will experience the impact of dementia by 2025. The standardised systems employed in most companies and the physical risks involved in navigating a busy metropolis can mean exclusion for the elderly and disabled alike.



Robotics Enabling Societal Inclusion for the Disabled Japanese Community

Japanese robotics company Ory Laboratory Inc. has introduced a solution visible at Dawn - Avatar Robot  Café in Tokyo. The initiative sees the introduction of remote-controlled robot avatars. CEO Kentaro Yoshifuji had the idea to design remote-controlled robot avatars after his experience of being bedridden in a hospital for almost three years.

The robots are controlled through eye movement, enabling immobilised people to work in the café, increasing human interaction possibilities and lessening the sense of isolation that often comes with disability. 


Introducing the OriHime-D Service Robots

The OriHime-D robots are 120cm tall and equipped with a camera, microphone and speaker, allowing them to 'speak' and receive orders as they move around the restaurant space. 

This technology enables the bedridden to interact with the world at large and experience the autonomy and independence of employment.


Inside Tokyo's 'Restaurant of Mistaken Orders'

Tokyo's "Restaurant of Mistaken Orders" offers a unique dining experience, challenging stereotypes by employing waitstaff with varying degrees of cognitive impairment, fostering a relaxed and inclusive atmosphere and empathy to the nuances of dementia. 


Creating a Positive Dining Experience

Creator Shiro Oguni was inspired by his encounter with a group home for people with dementia to reframe perceptions of dementia through the hospitality industry. Oguni emphasises that despite only 67% of orders arriving to customers correctly fulfilled, the crucial aspect is the interaction with individuals living with dementia.


Breaking Stereotypes Through Laughter

At the "Restaurant of Mistaken Orders," laughter abounds as patrons and staff collaborate to navigate the mix-ups in orders. Oguni's vision challenges negative stereotypes, replacing them with a positive and fun perspective on dementia. The staff's joy and motivation inspire a spirit of courage and sometimes move guests to tears.


Empowering Individuals with Dementia

Contrary to initial criticism, Oguni's experiment has transformed the negative image of dementia into one of empowerment. The staff's confidence grows as they actively participate in the restaurant's operations, dispelling preconceived notions about their capabilities. The focus shifts from seeing dementia as defining an individual to recognising it as just one aspect of who they are.

Cultivating a Warm and Inclusive Japan

Beyond being a "restaurant of never-ending laughter," Oguni envisions a broader societal shift. He advocates cultivating tolerance and warmth, believing both are intrinsic to societal change. 

In promoting a "Warm Japan," Oguni aims to foster an environment where people leave with smiles and a warm glow in their hearts, emphasising the importance of inclusivity in the cultural narrative.


As Japan navigates the intersection of technological progress and a rapidly ageing population, inclusive design has emerged as a beacon of societal transformation in the country's hospitality industry.

Both The Innovative Café, run by the remote disabled community and The Restaurant of Mistaken Orders, staffed by individuals with dementia, exemplify the impact of inclusive design in hospitality. These spaces transcend traditional societal limitations and foster empathy and inclusion paving the way for an inclusive Japan.