From time immemorial, cats have had a very close and special relationship with the Japanese, with representations of them in ancient art, statues and sacred places dedicated to felines. In addition, the characters and characters inspired by them, such as Hello Kitty and the lucky cat, are part of popular culture and are recognized worldwide.
For all cat lovers, Pets Feed has compiled some of the most special (and in some cases, unusual) data, places and facts that reveal this special connection between Japan and cats.
1. Tama, a cat station manager
Tama, was a kitten of the calico breed who ran the Kishi station from 2007 until his death in 2015. In addition, it served as inspiration for the decoration of the station and the trains crossing this road, as well revitalize the economy and tourism in this area of Wakayama prefecture.
After its death, Tama was appointed “honorable and eternal station master” with his own sanctuary in place. His position was taken by Nitama (which can be translated as second Tama), another kitten of the same breed who had already worked at another station on the same railway line before accessing his new second position station manager.
The main function of Nitama is to welcome all visitors. Like any other employee, Nitama respects working hours. If you want to see Nitama working, you can visit Kishi station, from Friday to Tuesday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
2. A trip full of cats to encourage adoption
Another curious fact on the trains in Japan, occurred in September 2017. An institution for the defense of these animals called Kitten Cafe Sanctuary joined the railway operator Yoro Railway Co Ltd and proposed a journey accompanied by ” about 30 rescued kittens, who ran and played in the wagon while the passengers could pet them and simply enjoy the journey and the company of the little kittens. The trip cost about $ 27, it included refreshments from the pleasant three-hour moments between the towns of Ogaki and Ikeno, as well as being part of a unique and different experience.
3. If you don’t have the time or space to have a cat, in Japan you can visit a cat cafe
With small houses or rules against pets in apartments, combined with long and stressful working days, cafes offering to hang out with a pet have become very popular in Japan. The first cat cafe opened in Osaka in 2004 and has grown in popularity so much that until 2015 there were already 58 such establishments in Tokyo.
These places charge an average of USD 10 per hour, excluding food and drink for humans. In some cases, they also sell treats for feline hosts. Among the rules, visitors can pet cats, but not lift them, unless a cat voluntarily approaches. You cannot feed cats outside or take flash photos.
4. If a few hours with cats are not enough, go to a cat island
There are a dozen islands in Japan known for their large cat population, which even exceeds the human population. The most famous is Aoshima, a small fishing island in the south of the country, where the current ratio is 36 cats for each human being who lives on the island. Another place famous for its cats is Tashirojima, a small island of about 100 inhabitants and in which it is believed that feeding stray cats brings good luck, that is why dogs are not allowed throughout the island. Another popular cat island recently was Okishima, as locals and authorities in the area moved and protected their large cat population to protect them from Typhoon Hagibis that struck the country last October.
5. Temples and shrines specially dedicated to cats
Gotokuji is a Buddhist temple located in Tokyo, which is said to be the place of origin of the manekineko, or “lucky cat”, a figure already popular all over the world. Although there are different versions of this kitten, in different colors, with the right leg, the left leg or both raised, the temple specializes in the version of the white kitten with the right leg raised and it is believed that there are about 2000 different sizes of figures in place.
Azusamiten, located in Tokyo Prefecture, is a temple known as the sanctuary for the return of cats. A place that owners of lost cats can reach for a prayer asking for the safe return of their feline animals or also for the health and long life of their cats.
The cat in the image above is Koyuki, the monk responsible for the Nyan Nyan temple, a word which is equivalent to “meow meow” in English. This particular “sanctuary”, located in Kyoto, was created by the painter Toru Kaya, known for his work in various temples and shrines of the country. On site, visitors can order food and drinks with a feline theme, of course, as well as view sculptures and paintings of the same theme. Koyuki also has seven auxiliary cats who also live there and receive visitors.
Do you love cats as much as visiting one of these places? What do you think of this Japanese love for cats? Share your opinions in the comments.