Ahead of two major sporting events Japan is expecting a record-breaking 40 million visitors next year.

From 'tattoo masking' services at public bathing spots to Samurai-inspired tours - the country has seen all sorts of niche services emerge catering to the tourist influx.

However, none are more niche than those offered by Unagi Travel, "Japan's travel agency for stuffed animals".

While you are watching the rugby quarter finals or a heat of Olympic badminton, you can relax in the knowledge that your stuffed mascot is travelling the Japanese countryside pursuing his-or her- own interests.

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Photo op: Unagi takes holiday snaps for the toys' owners. Photo / Unagi Travel
Photo op: Unagi takes holiday snaps for the toys' owners. Photo / Unagi Travel

They'll even send you a couple of holiday snaps to prove how much fun they're having.
This bizarre travel agency for teddy bears has existed long before Japan's new status as top tourist destination.

Unagi Travel has run over 300 tours since opening for business in 2010.

Since then it has developed programmes to include trips to Tokyo and the Japanese islands and a partnership with the Japanese travel agency NTA. The international demand has led to an expansion and creation of an English language service.

For $70-77 you can book your stuffed animal into a tour round Tokyo, from anywhere in the world.

Stuffed with action: Unagi itineraries include water sports in Okinawa. Photo / Unagi Travel
Stuffed with action: Unagi itineraries include water sports in Okinawa. Photo / Unagi Travel

Itineraries include water sports in Okinawa, hotel check-ins and all the dumplings a stuffed animal can eat.

Unagi Travel was the brain child of former banker and consultant Sonoe Azuma. Though has since made the fluffy toy travel business a full time job.

Speaking with Forbes Azuma said her inspiration behind the business "was to offer adventures for people who cannot physically travel: people in hospitals, the physically challenged, people who are busy, etc."

Cultural tourism: Toys travelling with Unagi will have the opportunity to sample local cuisine. Photo / Unagi Travel
Cultural tourism: Toys travelling with Unagi will have the opportunity to sample local cuisine. Photo / Unagi Travel

It has inspired a whole fleet of copy-cat businesses offering photo ops for play things in locations around the world.

Notable mentions include Peluche Travel which invites busy patrons to send their stuffed animal to France.

Run anthropomorphic bumble bee Zabeille, the stuffed animal and site mascot was sent on a trip by owner Sabine Passelegue in 2014.

"Zabeille has met nice friends during her tour in Japan, and would like now to welcome friends to visit France," reads the copy from the company website.

Teddy travel: One of Peluche's customers posing in Lyon. Photo / Peluche Travel
Teddy travel: One of Peluche's customers posing in Lyon. Photo / Peluche Travel

With trips costing between €40 and €55 ($70-$95) to send toys from New Zealand on luxury holidays around Paris and Lyon, you can see the appeal and value of vicariously touring the French countryside through one's stuffed animal.

How it works: Unagi Travel

1. A holiday is booked by the owner
2. Details and receipt are emailed to the owner
3. The animal is sent to Unagi's address in Tokyo, Japan
4. Your stuffed animal is treated to a day out around Japan's favourite landmarks
5. The tour group of stuffed animals are videoed, photographed and uploaded to the agency's social media channels.
6. Secure accommodation will be provided for at the Unagi headquarters
7. The stuffed animals will enjoy a trip lasting roughly 2-3 weeks.
8. Finally the toys are returned home to their respective owners, with a tracking code