Tag: Tokyo

The Story Behind Japan’s Iconic ‘Beckoning Cat’

In a new article, National Geographic delves into the history of maneki neko — Japan’s famous “beckoning cat” — and how the image became ubiquitous in modern society.

Chances are you’ve seen maneki neko even if you don’t realize it. The iconic feline image has transcended its homeland and is common not only in China, Vietnam, Thailand and the rest of Asia, it’s also made its way to the US and Canada as well, earning a place in shops run by Japanese and westerners alike.

Maneki Neko at Setagaya Tokyo
Visitors leave their own maneki neko statues at the shrine, often with personal messages asking for different blessings and written in black marker on the back of the statues. Credit: Pain In The Bud

There’s a reason for that: The waving cat not only represents luck and good fortune, it’s a welcoming gesture meant to attract customers. Maneki neko find a place in homes too, with different coat colors and patterns representing different positive attributes: A white cat is supposed to bring happiness, while a black cat wards off evil spirits and a calico is believed to bring luck in all its forms.

Maneki Neko Setagaya Tokyo
Maneki Neko statues at Setagaya shrine. Credit: PITB

As a cat lover I kept an eye out for the iconic statues during my time in Japan and, although I missed Buddy, I couldn’t leave without seeing where it all began: The cat shrine at Setagaya, a quiet Tokyo suburb where, according to legend, a feudal lord followed a beckoning cat by the roadside and found refuge from the elements in a humble shrine, where the temple monk invited them inside and gave a memorable sermon.

The feudal lord was so grateful for the hospitality, and for finding shelter to wait out a violent thunderstorm, that he vowed to become the temple’s patron. The grounds contain several temples today, as well as separate shrine areas for maneki neko left by visitors and wooden icons with hopeful messages written on them.

All images in this post are from my trip to Setagaya’s cat shrine in the summer of 2019. To see more, check out the post I wrote at the time from Tokyo.

Buddy Caught Editing His Own Wiki Entry

NEW YORK — Buddy the Cat was temporarily banned from Wikipedia on Tuesday after he was caught editing his own Wiki entry, the site’s moderators confirmed.

The vandalism was spotted over the weekend, when an editor noticed the infamous tabby cat’s entry had been significantly altered. The original entry, moderators said, met Wikipedia’s standards for neutral language and facts attributed to authentic sources:

“Buddy the Cat (born February 2014) is a domestic shorthair house cat best known for a disastrous term as president of the Americats [1], several appearances on Modern Cat magazine’s annual list of the 100 Most Ridiculous Cats [2], and as the leader of an alleged catnip smuggling ring responsible for importing more than 300 tons of catnip and silvervine annually, according to authorities. [3]”

The new version of the Wiki entry was immediately flagged due to its inclusion of unverified and unsourced claims:

“Buddy the Cat (born on the summer solstice of 2014 on the peak of Mount Olympos, Greece, during a meteor shower) is a purebred Buddinese tiger best known for a tremendously successful term as president of the Americats, a triumphant appearance on TIME magazine’s list of the 100 Most Influential Cats, and as an international feline sex symbol whose rugged good looks and muscular physique have earned him the admiration of female cats from New York to Tokyo.

Already an icon and movie action star, Buddy was elected as leader of the free cats in a surge of unprecedented patriotism and enthusiasm in 2016, as his campaign slogan — Make Yums Delicious Again — resonated with cats from coast to coast who were tired of the same old kibble. To date he is the only Americat president who has made turkey and bacon rain down from the sky.”

Moderator u/Librarian28 affixed a warning to the entry before reversing the vandalism and restoring the original content to the Wiki entry.

Edit, 11/22/2020: Entry has been vandalized and does no longer meet Wikipedia standards. Update, 11/24: The vandalism has been reversed and the original content restored.

The fix was short-lived, however, and within a few hours the second entry had been restored, along with a new subsection detailing Buddy’s acting career and his exploits as a covert operative for the Feline Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

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Buddy energizes the crowd by stage diving during a performance by his band,

Early life and education

After earning a degree in litter box etiquette and play time socializing from the University of SPCA’s Kitten Kindergarten Behavior School, Buddy earned his meowster’s degree from the FBI (Feline Bureau of Investigation) school of cat crime and worked ultra-secrete awesome clandestine missions for the bureau. During this time he was known only by the mysterious moniker “Grey Tiger” and was feared by felines the world over.

Buddy subsequently left the bureau to pursue a career as a Hong Kong action star, appearing in films such as The Way of the Claw and Enter the Tabby. In 2017, he earned international fame as Shiva, a tiger companion to the character Ezekiel on The Walking Dead. That summer he earned rave reviews for his performance in Cats, the long-running musical at New York City’s Winter Garden Theatre.”

Soon after the second set of edits to the Wikipedia page, moderators issued a two-week ban for the domestic shorthair cat, who had also been cited for vandalizing the Wiki entry for the Los Gatos and the cartel’s leader, Pawblo Escobar.

Johnny Clawchrane, Buddy’s attorney, denied that his client was behind the online vandalism.

“Ipso facto, my client remains innocent until proven guilty, and under the statutes of e pluribus unum a priori a la carte, he is entitled to an appeal post haste ad mausoleum, quid pro quo per se.”

Buddy Unscathed After Tour Bus Overturned By Screaming Japanese Fans

TOKYO — Buddy was uninjured after his tour bus was besieged and overturned by a massive crowd of screaming Japanese school girls, the famous cat’s representatives said Sunday.

Buddy, who touched down Friday in Tokyo for his “Got 2 Have Turkeys” tour, was en route to a performance and album signing in Shibuya Tower Records on Saturday afternoon when his tour bus was blocked by a phalanx of paparazzi. A large crowd that had assembled outside the store gravitated toward the street, surrounding the bus and making it impossible for the vehicle to escape in reverse.

“At first it was just normal stuff: The crowd chanting for Buddy, girls throwing their bras at the windows, boys calling out for autographs,” said MC Kibble, who has been touring with Buddy as the opening act and hype cat. “But when I felt the bus lurch, I knew we were in deep litter. The shit hit the sand, so to speak, and we got jolted around pretty good when they shoved the bus onto its side.”

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Ai Imajo, left, Asako Imamura and Yuki Mori react after spotting Buddy surrounded by guards and handlers at Haneda International Airport in Tokyo on Friday night.

The crowd was dispersed by Tokyo Metropolitan Police as paramedics arrived and cleared the bus. One roadie suffered a fractured rib, authorities said, but most of the occupants made it out with only a few scrapes and bruises.

An ambulance took Buddy to an undisclosed hospital, where he was discharged after only an hour.

“It was just a precautionary measure,” said the celebrity cat’s human servant, Big Buddy. “We had to make sure His Grace was in top shape before he continues his tour.”

Buddy is scheduled to perform for sold-out crowds at Saitama Super Arena on Monday and Sapporo Concert Hall in Hokkaido on Tuesday before heading to Hong Kong for the next leg of the “Got 2 Have Turkeys” tour.

Japanese Real Estate Agency Deals Exclusively In Cat-Friendly Homes

Proving once again that their country is home to some of the most enthusiastic cat-servants, Japan now has a real estate agency that lists only cat-friendly homes and apartments.

Actually, cat-friendly might be an understatement. Nekorepa Real Estate (neko is Japanese for cat) aims to hook people and their furry buddies up with homes built with cats in mind.

What does that mean? Bathrooms that have built-in cat doors, for example, so renters and homeowners can keep litter boxes there, and presumably put a permanent end to the never-ending feline freak-outs when cats are left out while their humans occupy the throne.

Others have custom-built alcoves in less-trafficked areas where litter boxes can be tucked, with ventilation fans built into the spaces. Almost all of them have an array of perches and comfortable cat-size window spots.

A home earns Nekorepa’s official seal of approval if it meets three criteria, Japan Today reports: “[A]bundant natural sunlight (to facilitate cozy cat naps), floors and walls with scratch-resistant surfaces (so your pet can run and play to its heart’s content), and a design that ensures your furry friend can’t slip out of the apartment and get lost while you’re away from home.”

Click on the images below for larger versions. These are some sweet cat digs:

Pretty much every Nekorepa home has built-in feline-friendly features, like easy-to-reach window perches, plus platforms, bridges and walkways for when cats feel like viewing their kingdoms from above.

It’s worth noting that there’s a legitimate need for a service like this in Japan. Space is at a premium, rental prices are sky high, and it’s not easy to find landlords who allow pets. That’s one reason cat cafes were born in Japan and continue to enjoy success — they cater to people who love cats but can’t have them in their homes.

If you’re living in Tokyo you’ll have the most options, but the company says it’s expanding throughout the country. As for the rest of us, let’s hope a few cat-loving real estate agents read this…

Cats In Games: Yakuza Kiwami 2

I’d been playing Yakuza Kiwami 2 for only a few minutes when I stopped and did a double-take.

My in-game character was standing in the exact same spot I’d been standing in real life six months ago, in Tokyo’s Shinjuku district.

Here’s Karaoke Kan on that street corner in the game:

Shinjuku in Yakuza Kiwami 2
Shinjuku in Yakuza Kiwami 2.

And the same corner in real life:

Karaoke club in Shinjuku, Tokyo

The game’s recreation of Tokyo is impressive, featuring a replica of the Shinjuku district that feels alive, buzzing with activity and undiscovered adventures.

Here’s Shinjuku’s Don Quijote in the game alongside the real one in Tokyo:

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Don Quijote in Shinjuku.

Japan is arguably the most cat-friendly country in the world, with cat imagery everywhere, cats as pop culture icons, pet parents pushing their coddled kitties in designer strollers on the streets of Tokyo, and entire islands populated almost exclusively by cats.

I knew it wouldn’t be long before the game brought a cat into the mix, and it didn’t disappoint. In one scene, a character asks you to find his dear little girl who has been kidnapped, and you’re under the impression you’re searching for his daughter — right up until you find the kidnappers, give ’em a good old Yakuza beatdown, and realize your acquaintance’s “little girl” is actually a cat:

A cat in Yakuza Kiwami 2
A cat in Yakuza Kiwami 2.

The game, which is little-known in the US but hugely popular in Japan, also features a, shall we say, less amiable encounter with cats:

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Now would be a good time to run!