Recently, Pignic Cafe in Tokyo’s Akiruno city held a work experience day for a student from Akiruno Special Education School.
At first, nerves were rife all around, with both staff and the student at slight unease, but after interacting with the cafe’s micro pigs, the student was energized and the tension gradually loosened.

During the day, the student learnt advanced pig caretaking skills, such as training the pigs with tricks, and maintaining the pig’s hooves. Full of love for the cafe’s resident animals, the student was happy to take on the challenges that come alongside animal care without any complaints.
In the cafe training, the student prepared drinks and baked donuts for the customers. When tasked with stamping the cafe’s logo onto the paper cups, the staff praised the student and stated that her cups were more beautiful than what they could have made.
The student shone through particularly when she was able to easily handle the cashier on the iPad, which many of the middle-aged and older staff often struggle with. When the pigs soiled the store even just a little, the student was quick to act and cleaned the floor faster than anyone else, making sure customers could enjoy their space comfortably.

Changes in the student’s mindset

At first it seemed to the staff at Pignic Cafe that the student was a little apprehensive about getting a job and becoming a member of adult society. However, the way she went about her work experience has given staff confidence in both her physical and mental abilities to approach work.
After the experience, a teacher at Akiruno Gakuen contacted Pignic Cafe, who has quoted the teacher in saying ‘the student has become increasingly bright and positive about getting a job!’ On top of that, the student sent a letter of gratitude to the staff at Pignic Cafe to thank them for allowing her to have work experience at their store and for being so welcoming.

Changes in the staff of Pignic Cafe’s mindset

Since the student’s work experience, the staff at Pignic Cafe have felt that the ‘wall’ that may have existed originally when it came to connecting with and working with people with disabilities has disappeared.
They noted that “although she is a little shy, she is a unique and serious person, who loves both pigs and works hard. After working with her, I realized that when it comes to working with someone, it does not matter if they have a disability.
I have put the student’s letter of gratitude on my fridge. When I read the letter, I remember my original hardworking intentions and am inspired to do my job properly and with enthusiasm! The student has motivated me to continue doing my best!”

Thanks to the work of one work experience student, the staff at Pignic Cafe have decided to actively develop a side to their business that contributes to the growth of society and they have now officially started accepting work experience of local junior high school students. Additionally, the cafe has connected with Yamaguchi Ya – an employment support facility for people with disabilities – and has asked them to produce Pignic Goods that can be sold at the cafe.
The cafe has also begun accepting free charters for nursery schools and kindergartens that are currently unable to go on trips because of COVID-19. The first of these, Oguno Kindergarten, has been invited to come to the cafe to have fun playing with the pigs. Looking to the future, the cafe hopes to take a step into animal therapy for the elderly and those in care.

Pignic Cafe can be found in the foothills of Tokyo’s western mountains. Reservations for visits can be made online through the official website. The funds received from customers will source the cafe’s volunteer activities.

Pignic Cafe

Location: 833-1 Tokura, Akiruno-shi, Tokyo
Saturdays, Sundays and Holidays: 9:00 – 19:00
Weekdays: 10:00 – 16:00

By - Connie Sceaphierde.