Tourist Spot

‘Insta-worthy’ Osaka restaurant with miniature railroad and ‘monster’ cats thrives amid pandemic

Cats are seen on a miniature railway diorama at the Diorama restaurant in the Tennoji district of Osaka in this recent photo. (Mainichi / Satoshi Hishida)

OSAKA – A restaurant featuring detailed miniature models of railroads and surrounding landscapes is attracting customers from all over Japan here despite the COVID-19 pandemic thanks to its four-legged residents who resemble kaiju, or type monsters Godzilla.

Diorama Restaurant in Osaka’s Tennoji District, which features miniature model railroads that run through the approximately 65-square-meter facility, is home to 14 cats. The feline-railroad combo has proven to be popular, especially among Instagram users. The cats themselves can be seen in the restaurant, even with all models built inside – you’ll find one sitting on the railroad tracks, resting his head on the railroad bridge, while another stands up. slowly from his nap in the mountains to smash the roof of a train platform.

Diorama restaurant owner and model railroad enthusiast Naoki Teraoka, 57, has operated model-themed miniature restaurants since 2005. He opened Diorama restaurant in 2018, but was subsequently hit by the pandemic. He even thought of closing it after the decrease in the number of customers. But then he found an emaciated stray kitten on the restaurant premises and took it away. He began to take care of the kitten in the restaurant, after which his mother and siblings began to introduce themselves.

The kitten eventually recovered, and after Teraoka posted images of the cats playing with the railroad models on social media, his restaurant quickly became a popular tourist spot, even gaining the attention of foreign media.

“What we are today is thanks to the cats. I want to pay them back from now on,” Teraoka told the Mainichi Shimbun. He has opened a cat shelter on the second floor of the restaurant and engages in feline support activities, including finding permanent homes for the animals.

Sure, cats break models, and fixing them has become Teraoka’s daily routine, but he seemed happy when he said, “They did it again today.”

(Japanese original from Kaoru Nagasaki, Osaka Office)