Spokane cat club is studying the history of cats in other cultures. Saturday, March 9, the focus was on felines in Japanese culture. Cats are a very popular animal in Japan and are also where the extremely popular Hello Kitty originated.
Maneki Neko, or in English, called the "good luck" or "good fortune" cat is world renown. This feline is typically a sitting cat with paw raised and bent. Legend in Japan says that a cat waved a paw at a Japanese landlord, who was charmed by this motion and moved towards it. A few short seconds later a lightning bolt struck where the landlord had been standing only moments before. The landlord accredited his good fortune to the cat's chance act. A symbol of good luck consequently, it is most often seen in establishments to draw in business and prosperity. In Japan, the waving of the hand is a "welcome here" gesture, so the cat is motioning for customers to come in.
There is also a small cat shrine, Neko Jinja, erected in the middle of Tashirojima Island. History has it, the islanders raised silkworms for silk, and since mice are a by nature a predator of silkworms, cats were “hired” to keep the mouse population down.
Fixed-net fishing was prevalent on the island after the Edo Period and fishermen from other areas would sojourn and stay on the island overnight. The cats would appear at the inns where the fishermen were lodging and beg for scraps. In due course, the fishermen developed a deep affection for the cats and would watch the cats closely, reading their actions between the lines and use them as prophecies of the weather and fish patterns. One time, when the fishermen were gathering rocks to use with the fixed-nets, a loose rock fell and killed one of the cats. The fishermen, feeling terrible for the loss of the cat, buried her/him and enshrined her/him at this site on the island.
Another Japanese legend of cats is the bakeneko, when a cat lives to a certain age, she/he grows another tail, can stand up and talk in a human language.
To this very day, cats hold an important place in Japanese culture. Hello Kitty even has her own theme park. Nishinomiya is Japan’s sister city to Spokane. The Japanese Bobtail is a beautiful and well-liked breed of cat.