The Japanese ファミレス — or famiresu short for “family restaurant” — is a magical place of all-you-can-drink soda bars and delectable seasonal desserts.
Walking around big cities like Tokyo and Osaka, you’ll come across several of Japan’s most popular famiresu chains including western-style Gusto, faux-Italian Saizeriya, and international giant Denny’s.
But Twitter user @ciotan discovered a whole new level of sorcery at a famiresu she dined at in Ibaraki, a prefecture just north-east of Tokyo. Filled with wonder and confusion, she posted the following video of the establishment with an unusual sight at its center:
— 塩谷 舞（mai shiotani） (@ciotan) March 14, 2019
Flamingos. Tons of flamingos all enclosed in a little open-air garden inside of the restaurant.
@ciotan reached out to her followers in hopes of satisfying her curiosity, writing, “I’m blown away by this family restaurant in Ibaraki. Someone, please explain how this happened…”
Her video has since received over a thousand replies and 3.5 million views since she tweeted it back in mid-March.
Of course, this is the Internet, so her question did not receive a direct answer right away. One creative person responded with the following theory straight out of the Miyazaki film Spirited Away:
— sats (@surakbj) March 14, 2019
@surakbj suggested, “Maybe all the customers got turned into birds?” That sounds a little better than being turned into a pig, at least.
Then some real answers began surfacing, and people from both Ibaraki and Fukushima Prefecture further north, commented that this is a common and nostalgic view that can be found at a chain famiresu called Mexico.
Ibaraki resident @J4Fmusic explained, “I can’t say it’s completely normal for people from Ibaraki, but it is something that we’ve all seen before.”
Another Ibaraki local chimed in, saying, “I’m from Ibaraki! Mexico is expensive so I don’t go often, but I like it!🐦”
@biccameramito posted a photo outside one of Mexico’s locations advertising that they’ve recently added more flamingos:
フラミンゴが増えたときは おっ となりました pic.twitter.com/N3R5UNSs2b
— ビックカメラ水戸駅店@ビッカメ娘ビジュアルブック入荷しました (@biccameramito) March 15, 2019
They tweeted, “I was pleasantly surprised when they added more flamingos.”
Further adding to the confusion, Mexico isn’t even a Mexican restaurant. It’s a seafood chain with flamingo-themed locations in Ibaraki, Fukushima, and Yamagata Prefecture. Other themes include aquariums, and ocean-side views, and previously monkeys.
Um, is this OK?
While this restaurant became a trending topic in Japan thanks to @ciotan, it also raises questions about animal welfare here. The country received a “D” rating for animal welfare in 2014 according to the World Animal Protection organization, citing a lack of both government protection of animals and education about humane practices.
The upcoming Tokyo 2020 Olympics and Paralympics has become a stage athletes are utilizing to campaign for animal rights in Japan. Olympian medalists Dotsie Bausch, Rebecca Soni, and Meagan Duhamel are among several people who have signed an open letter requesting better treatment for animals ahead of the Olympic Games.
For now, many farmers, business owners, and politicians seem unwilling to budge on current practices. But here’s hoping that with the added international pressure of the Olympics we’ll be seeing less of these kinds of tricks soon.
You can sign the Olympic petition here.
Read more about animal rights issues in Japan at: