I arrived at Itabashi Station and decided to give the Swan Bakery & Cafe franchise in Takinogawa, Kita a try!
Swan Cafe is known for their baked bread and coffee and they also take pride in supporting people with disabilities and also hiring those with disabilities.
Swan Cafe & Bakery may have opened in 1998 but the groundwork prior to the cafe’s debut went far back as 1993 by the late Ogura Masao who established the Yamato Welfare Foundation. A foundation which supported people with disabilities.
After the foundation was created, in January 1995, Japan had a major disaster with the Great Hanshin Earthquake, the foundation visited the region and found that many of the disabled individuals had problems finding work and many were suffering.
Visiting various establishments, a disabled person that was working was only earning less than 10,000 yen ($100) at the time and surprised by the situation in Japan towards disabled employees and the low-wages that they received, Ogura offered seminars to create awareness of how the disabled can be incorporated in the workforce and show people and employers that people with disabilities can contribute to the workforce.
So, a bakery was created and to show that employees with disabilities can work shifts like a normal employee and also to show that an employee can earn up to Y100,000 (a little over $1,000) per month. With the help of Takehiko Bakery Co., Ltd., the bakery was successful in showing that people with disabilities can be part of the workforce.
So, in June 1998, the first Swan Bakery in Ginza was established.
Since then, with four direct owned and operated franchise stores and 24 franchise stores employing more than 350 people with disabilities, Swan Cafe & Bakery continues the vision of hiring people with disabilities and training them to work in their cafe and bakery.
For me, I found it interesting because one of my first early teen jobs was working at a Taco Bell and I worked with a two people with disabilities. One named Johnny who would rock with his walkman singing heavy metal while walking to work and did a great job working in janitorial. The other was Steven who worked as a dishwasher and would always talk to me about ’70s rock music and his love for Cat Stevens. I thought it very cool to see people with disabilities given an opportunity. You just don’t see that happening as often in the workplace at that time, and even today, while it has improved, more can be done and that includes Japan.
So, I ate at Swan Cafe and management, owner and I’m thinking the other was a baker, who were training the two newer employees and for these individuals, their training included serving me my food and drink and they did a fantastic job!
I ordered the pizza set, had desert and coffee afterward and for the most part, it was simple convenience food at a cafe with a relaxing atmosphere. Was it the greatest experience? It was a pleasant experience, so much that I enjoyed my time there. The customer service was excellent and I had a great experience visiting Swan Cafe & Bakery.
Aside from the owner and manager, I didn’t sit there contemplating which of the employees were disabled or not. If anything, I was more enjoying the vibe of being at Swan Cafe & Bakery and enjoying the food, drink and ambiance. I enjoyed my time visiting Swan Cafe and Bakery in Takinogawa, Kita and if happen to be near Itabashi Station, it’s a place worth eating at, getting coffee and no doubt, a cafe worth supporting!