Most everything and everyone has a day dedicated to them. Fathers day, Mothers day, Presidents day... The list goes on. Happily, cats also get their own day, which in Japan is on the 22nd February. My cat thinks every day is her day, but for the less demanding feline (if such a thing exists!) let’s take a look at how February 22nd goes down for our furry counterparts.
Japan and cats
It’s no secret the Japanese love cats. After all, they invented the marvellous cat cafe (an establishment on the top of my to see list), a lot of YouTube and Vine stars involving cats are Japanese and there’s even a cat island; where cats outnumber people by a massive 3 to 1 ratio (it’s called Tashirojima). Although animal welfare laws in Japan aren’t as protective and generous as some Western countries, there are still an awful lot of animal lovers here. Dogs are actually the most popular pet in Japan, but hot on their heels is the not so humble kitty.
How did it start?
The custom was first introduced in 1987, after a poll of the nation’s cat lovers revealed an enthusiasm for such an event. An Executive Cat Day Committee carried out the poll, and chose February 22nd as the day of the cat. This custom exists all over the world, but is rarely celebrated with the same effervescence as shown in the Land Of The Rising Sun.
Japans cat superstars
Tama may be the most famous real cat, after making international news when she was made honorary station master of a train station in Wakayama prefecture. A cat sized hat was bestowed upon her, and she was loved by all until her sad passing in June 2015. Her memory has been immortalised, however, after she was inducted into the station’s train line Hall Of Fame in February 2016; a wonderful tribute.
Another popular Japanese cat is Maru, a YouTube sensation who emerged in 2008. Since then, Maru has enjoyed a large audience and an impressive viewing figure of over 21.7 million on an early video.
Of course, we can’t forget Nyan cat, can we? An internet meme featuring a flying cat with a pop tart body and a rainbow vapour trail, set to a catchy Hatsune Miku synth (Hatsune Miku is a popular 3D “vocaloid” popstar in Japan). There’s even a 10 hour version on Youtube (I honestly can’t imagine why, but that’s the beauty of the Internet), and the original has had a whopping 131 million views!
Let’s clear up a misconception whilst we’re at it: Hello Kitty. The mouthless “cat” unveiled by Sanrio in the 1970’s is actually a British girl... go figure.
Cats are also regulars in both anime and manga. Studio Ghibli often features cats as side characters, and they play a role in many other productions too (even if it’s just as a cat on the wall in the background). Natsume Yuujinchou (Natsume’s Book Of Friends) even features a Youkai (ghost or spirit) whose favourite form is a greedy sake drinking cat!
How does one celebrate cat day in Japan?
What a good question! First off, let’s look at the reasons behind the date chosen. Seem random? Not at all. The numerals for the date are 02/22, ni ni ni (pronounced nee nee nee) in Japanese, a sound similar to the noise a cat makes in Japan: nyan nyan nyan (pronounced neeyan neeyan neeyan). The Japanese name for the date is “Neko no Hi”.
As for celebrating, this is up to the individual, but rest assured, the day is all about that special furry friend. Some people like to play harmless pranks on their cats, such as placing soft objects on them when they sleep, and filming the reactions when they wake up, or taking silly pictures and videos of their cats doing funny or weird things. Some humans dressed as cats for the day, an especially popular trend amongst ‘cosplayers’ (people who dress up as cartoon, anime, comic book and other pop culture icons), or donned “nekomimi” (cat ears). Another way is to make cat shaped foods, like rice balls with kitty ears. Why not make cat shaped food for your cat? They may not appreciate it, but you know you tried, and they can’t hold that against you! (well they can, they are cats!). As with most days of this type, retailers and commercial businesses got in on the act, selling cat themed gifts and foods (cat doughnuts anyone?!).
My cat Nibbles and I took part in cat day too. It consisted of her using me as her play toy and personal assistant all day (which to be fair isn’t much different to any other day) and ending it with a tasty kitty treat (Whiskas wet food) and snuggles, before she decided that trying to eat my feet was more fun. Cats right?
But I’m not a cat person!
Whilst I don’t really understand how you can’t love cats, fear not. February 22nd is also Ninja Day, cool huh? Best place to celebrate this occasion is Koka City in Shiga prefecture, where the town hall staff all dress as assassins for the day!
I find it quite apt that cats and ninja’s share the same celebration day. Think about it: stealthy, cunning, quick on their feet, kind of crazy, not afraid of heights, can fit themselves in ridiculous places, and armed with pointy weapons. Coincidence? I think not.
Did you celebrate cat day with your fine feline? Why not share your cat day pics with us on twitter? Just @ us and hashtag with CatDay.