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Japan: Cat mania

The spreading of communities of people with same interests and hobbies is not new in the internet society. Netizens often exchange news, suggestions and picture on things and activities they share a common interest on.

By Flickr user id:WasabiNoise

By Flickr user id:WasabiNoise

In Japan that is not only limited to hobbies, however, also love for pets is one of the most discussed topics in the blogs. Cats in particular, occupy the first place in the “blog on animals” rankings [ja] and many bloggers dedicate entire pages to their feline buddies. And there are all kinds of blogs: blogs about black and white cats (like this), fat cats, short-haired cats, long-haired cats and so on, or blogs that help to locate the areas where there is most likely to be a cat sighting (like this).

A blogger gives her interpretation of the reasons for black-cat mania.

黒猫マニアってすごく多いんです。どんな黒猫でも、自分の猫のように思ってしまうので、黒猫の本はバカ売れ。グッズも多数存在しています。

There are a lot of people who have a mania for black cats. Every cat they see reminds them of theirs and that is why books about black cats sell like crazy. And there are also a lot of [cat] paraphernalia.

Sometimes the cats’ owners even try to interpret their pets “feelings” like in this post by nana.

猫のビョーインに行ってきました。
ビョーイン内で猫さまを飼っていらっしゃるんだけど、
みんにゃスゲー人懐っこくて、
人間慣れも、猫慣れもしてるんです。
ええコ達やーーーーっ!
アタシ、スリスリしていただきましたわ・・・。(ぽっ)
おかえしに、クンカクンカしてさしあげましたわ。

I went to the hospital for cats. There were a lot of Mr. and Mrs. Cats and all so attached to people, miaow.
They are really comfortable at being among human beings as well as among cats.
Goooood boys!
They gave me a lot of caresses, so I sniffed them in return.. (poh)

But cat mania is not only limited to the blogosphere, as demonstrated by the recent movie Watashi wa Neko Stalker (私は猫ストカー, I'm a Cat Stalker) [ja], from the homonymous book by illustrator Harumin Asao (浅尾ハルミン)[ja], published in 2005, where the protagonist is a young girl who literally stalks cats and enjoys “spying” on them to observe their daily life.

Here is a comment on the movie by a blogger who defines himself a “neko stalker”.

ストーリーはあって無いようなもので、のんびり、ゆる~く東京の下町を舞台に主人公の女の子が猫を追いかける様子をドキュメンタリー風に描いています。
住宅街で猫を見つけて写真を撮っている主人公をそこの住人が不思議な目で見る場面は「あー、自分もこんな風に見られているんだなぁ」と思ったりして、猫をストーカーするってこんな感じというのがたくさん出てきます。
劇場でにやけた顔で観ていた人たちは間違いなく猫ストーカーでしょう。
(はい、私です。)

The story is very vague and the movie, shot in the relaxed and quiet suburbs of Tokyo, is more like a documentary describing the life of the female protagonist running after cats.
When I saw the scene where the young protagonist, who looks for cats and takes pictures of them, is looked bad by the people of the neighborhood I thought to myself, “Ah, so also I am looked in that way by people!” And there are many scenes where the cat-stalking is described.
The people who were grinning foolishly in the cinema hall were all neko-stalkers. No doubt.
(Oh wait, that's me.)


Trailer of Watashi wa Neko Stalker

And, at least in Tokyo, there is no lack of events where cat lovers can meet and boast of their cat. Besides the “Neko-stalker photo contest” organized as part of the promotion to the movie above, Bandai Namco sponsored the “Show off your cat photo contest” (猫自慢写真コンテスト) to which as, id:bengalcat announces [ja], 1500 people participated and more than 3000 photos were sent.

One of the winner of the contest, who presented the picture of her cat intent on an adventurous jump, shares her feelings when received the contest result. (Unfortunately, we cannot upload the winning picture for copyrights reasons)

なによりも嬉しかったのは、私の写真がスクリーンに映し出されたときに、観客の皆さんがどっと吹き出し、笑ってくれたこと。小さい子どもなんか、写真の猫と同じポーズをしてはしゃいでいたらしい。
自分の写真を見てくださった方に、一瞬でも「面白い」「楽しい」という気持ちを持っていただけたのであれば、これにまさる幸せはありませんね。

What made me happy the most was the moment when my picture was showed on the screen and the audience burst into big laughter. And there even were high-spirited kids imitating the pose in the picture.
There is nothing better than people seeing my picture and thinking “Cool!”, “That's funny!”, if only for a moment.

Cat mania is also becoming a business for some people, as Yoshimura-san explains. In fact, while the inhabitants of Owase City in Mie prefecture complain about the increase of cats, Tashiro Island [ja] in Miyazaki Prefecture (only 71 inhabitants and no children) is considered a paradise for cat maniacs.

昨晩、NHKで「ドキュメント20min. 猫の楽園」という番組があって、猫が観光資源になっている島が紹介されていました。[…] この島の猫は人間になついていて逃げないのがすごいです。でも、人間になついていない野良猫も魅力的だと思ってます。村おこしはアイディアが大切です。猫が増え過ぎてしまったのなら猫で観光客を呼び込もうというような、マイナスをプラスに変える発想が必要ではないかなと思ってます。

Yesterday, I watched a 20 min. documentary about the “Cat Paradise” by NHK [ja], presenting an island whose touristic attractions are “cats”. […]
It's impressive how the cats on the island are so used to human beings that they don't run away. However, I think that also stray cats who don't follow people are charming.
To attract more people to the village is important. And such an initiative to transform the negative phenomenon of the increase of cats into a plus, thereby attracting more tourists, might be helpful.

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