OSAKA — Feline friends saved the day for one restaurateur in Osaka who was on the verge of shuttering his business because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Diorama Restaurant in Tennoji Ward, Osaka, is well-known for its elaborate model train system set in intricate landscapes. Nowadays, though, the eatery has caused a buzz on social media as previously stray cats walk amid the miniature display and watch the trains come and go.

“At first, I wanted to save the cats,” said owner Naoki Teraoka. “But it turns out they saved me.”

Diorama Restaurant opened in 2018, but was temporarily closed between March and May 2020 due to the pandemic. The restaurant gradually resumed operations in June, but customers were so slow to return that Teraoka seriously began to consider closing up shop.

It was around that time that Teraoka began taking care of four feeble kittens and their mother near his restaurant. When he gave them a place to stay in the corner of the dining room, the cats would leave their cages and walk around the model train display.

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In August, Teraoka posted footage of the scene on Twitter and other social media.

The cats looked gigantic while walking around the model train set, and the images went viral on social media. People began posting comments such as, “These videos soothe the gloomy feelings caused by the pandemic.”

The number of followers on Teraoka’s Twitter account jumped more than 10-fold from the 400 he had, and fans began sending him cat food and other gifts. Encouraged by the support, Teraoka decided to keep the business going.

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“I felt the warmth of people thanks to these kittens, and I’m in the mood to open the restaurant again,” Teraoka said.

The cats are kept in a separate room during business hours, so visitors cannot see them playing amid the diorama. 



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