At this Japanese restaurant all the servers have dementia
Whenever we sit down for a meal at a restaurant we all expect to be served what we ordered, right? But at The Restaurant of Mistaken Orders, in Japan, you really can't take this for granted. This unique restaurant opened in Tokyo in June 2017 for just two days, and the idea behind it is to make people feel that making mistakes is ok. You might now be asking yourself just what kind of restaurant this is.
One of its organisers, Shiro Oguni, explains that “All the staff taking orders and serving tables at this restaurant have dementia.” Due to their disease, they are no longer able to live independently and are all residents of a home run by Yukio Wada in the city. It all started when Shiro began to ask himself: Why do we always have to seek out perfection? If all of us could accept the fact that we all make mistakes, regardless of whether or not we have something like dementia, it would make society more tolerant.
And so the idea for this social experiment was born. With the residents on board, Shiro gathered a group of volunteers and asked professional chefs to take part. Of course, special attention was paid to hygiene and the servers all got new, well-ironed aprons to wear. At first they were a little nervous, but soon the doors were open and it was time to start!
According to Shiro, by other restaurant standards service was “Frankly catastrophic: They forgot what to do at the tables, served glasses of water twice, hot coffee with a straw in it… and well, that’s exactly what the The Restaurant of Mistaken Orders is all about.” Instead of receiving a flood of complaints, however, the nervous servers were spontaneously reassured by customers that everything was ok.
Yasuko Mikawa, one of the participants, was a piano teacher until she developed dementia four years ago. Once service was over, she started playing the Ave Maria on an instrument placed in the restaurant. Her husband, Kazuo, accompanied her on the cello, helping her to start over every time she stopped or made a mistake. Yasuko says that despite her illness she still loves playing the piano and does not want to give it up. It was a beautiful moment that showed how painful it must be for dementia patients to come to terms with the fact that they are no longer capable of doing what they once loved or did without any difficulty.
After the doors were closed, it turns out that although 60% of all orders were mistaken, over 90% of the customers said they would come back to the restaurant. News of it spread on social media and the organisers have received an overwhelming number of inquiries from local government officials and individuals who would like to try something similar.
The video below shows what happened over those two days (in Japanese):
In the US alone, more than 5 million people suffer from dementia, and in Japan the situation is similar: one in 15 Japanese citizens suffer some kind of mental or cognitive impairment and the number of dementia patients is already calculated at over 4 million people. For Yukio Wada, this initiative involving dementia patients goes to show that “One in 15 of us have dementia, next might be my turn. Our society would be a lot more tolerant of everybody if we all just acknowledged that it’s ok to make mistakes.”
The organisers of this unique restaurant are already planning another event later this month. They have attracted a lot of attention on Japanese social media and are receiving a lot of support for their awareness promotion programs.
Coming from one of the countries with the largest elderly populations on the planet, this social experiment really does bring home the message that we all deserve to live with dignity, but this will only be achieved once we make the world a more tolerant place for all.