Monday, September 28, 2009

Japanese Neko Campaign 2009: Success!

I love cats, and I always look for them whenever I travel. Here are the fluffy felines I encountered during my last trip to Japan.

Cat in Japanese is neko, and the kanji character for it looks like this:

The Park Next to the Tokyo Dome (name unknown)
I saw three nekos on my first full day in Tokyo, at a park next to the Tokyo Dome. Two of them were scared, but this one didn't seemed a bit interested in me.

In fact, I think my presence bored him.

Here's one of the scaredy cats. He had no idea that I'm a fan, not a foe.

Yanaka, Tokyo
An old neighborhood in northern Tokyo, Yanaka is home to quiet, narrow streets and temples. And apparently, lots of cats.

After exiting the Tokyo Metro at the Nishi-Nippon station, I walked up a steep hill and stopped at a park, where I saw the above sign. I'm not exactly sure what it says, but essentially the sign tells us not to feed the cats in the neighborhood. I thought the sign did a great job because there wasn't a cat to be found in that park.

This cat found me rather than me finding her. I was about to take a picture of the Niomon Gate at Yofukuji Temple when I heard a meow. I looked to my left, and this beautiful black and white cat was staring at me from her perch on the wall.

She jumped down from the wall, and walked in my general direction. She wasn't approaching me because she was slightly scared by my presence, but I could tell she was also intrigued by me as well. She had a very strong and loud meow.

She rolled around in front of the beautiful Niomon Gate.

This is her friend, who also had a curious interest in me. I couldn't get close enough to pet either of them, but I was happy to see them. They seemed clean, healthy, and content to live on the temple grounds.

Also within the Yanaka neighborhood is a delightful street lined with old shops and cafes. These two torties were hanging out near the steps that lead down into the section known as Yanaka Ginza. They must be siblings; just look at his brother below.

What a skinny little guy! I heard the little bell on his collar and found him rolling around in this tiny alley.

The entrance to Yanaka Ginza is marked by a set of stone steps that lead down into the little street. I saw this tucked in a corner at the top of those steps. I assume that these little boxes serve as houses to the torties I met. I was happy to see this because it gave me hope that someone is taking care of these cats.

Can you spot the cat in this picture? While walking through the Yanaka Cemetery, I saw this stoic cat near a gravesite. Sitting rigidly and with focus, he appeared to be paying his respects to the entombed.

I almost felt guilty for disturbing his moment of introspection and tranquility, but he didn't seem to mind.

Here's another hidden gem. This orange cat was lounging in the cemetery.

For some reason the Yanaka Cemetery is a haven for cats. Shortly after seeing the first two cats, I saw this gorgeous black cat near another cluster of graves.

It was a hot day; I wonder if the stones helped keep the cats cool.

During my JapanBall excursion to Iwakuni, I saw this great cat.

He was sitting in Kikko Park, just beyond the statue of Hiroyoshi Kikkawa, a daimyo who commissioned the building of the Kintai Bridge.

We all stopped to greet him and take pictures of him. Yet another cat who seemed bored in the presence of humans.

Yamagata: Largest Cat Ever
I went to visit my friends Michi and Kyoko in Yamagata, a rural prefecture in northern Japan. They are the owners of Nyan-chan, the largest cat I've ever seen.

He looks normal in this picture, but . . .

. . . you can see a bit of his girth in this picture. The size of Kyoko's hands is normal, neither big nor small. But they look tiny against Nyan-chan's giant belly.

Here's a better look at Nyan-chan's tummy as Michi does a little dance with him. What a great cat. His visible fang teeth belie the fact that he's so laid back and quiet. He has an aversion to flash photography, but other than that, he was cool and friendly.

Michi and Kyoko took me on a hike up a mountain to Yamadera ("mountain temple"), a famous sightseeing spot in Yamagata. We met a couple of cool cats owned by the lady who runs the parking lot.

Cats in Japan seem more pliable than cats here in the States; they don't seem to mind people picking them up and throwing them around.

This white cat takes a bath in the parking lot at the foot of Yamadera. He reminds me of Sam, an old cat our family had when I was in high school. The parking lot lady told us she has seven cats and a dog.

On my way to the train station the next day, I walked around this park on the grounds of Yamagata Castle. I wanted to approach these cats to take better pictures of them, but I wasn't sure if the old man with them was crazy and homeless, so I thought it would be best to keep my distance.

This kitty spotting was a lot of fun: Hello Kitty! I visited her house in Sanrio Puroland - yes, I did - the details of which will be posted in a future blog entry. She was waiting for her fans to pose for photo ops.

While I love seeing the cute neko-chans, it does break my heart that there are so many feral strays in the world. But the cats I saw on this trip to Japan looked healthy, especially the ones at the temples in Yanaka, so I'm thankful for that.

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