|31 Pictures That Show Japan’s Crazy Obsession With Cats
[Editor: Love cats too? Check out Sanrio in Japantown for the latest Hello Kitty products. Visit theirwebsite, follow them on Twitter or like them on Facebook.]
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Take a walk around Tokyo, and you’ll see cat faces on every product imaginable. Hello Kitty, arguably Japan’s most famous export, is only the tip of the iceberg. I’ve tried on bowler hats with pointy ears, visited kitty petting zoos, and eaten Cheshire cat pizza at theme restaurants. Why the obsession? In Japanese folklore, cats have protective powers and symbolize good fortune. A bobtail supposedly lured a feudal lord with a “come hither” gesture, which saved him from being struck by lightning. Today, business owners put “maneki neko” (beckoning cat) statues in front of their shops, in hope that the moving paw will bring in customers. Or perhaps there’s a simpler explanation: cats are cute, and easy to depict in the round, simplified “kawaii” design favored by Harajuku girls. Personally, I find it hard to resist buying anything decorated with whiskers and a tail.
An inflatable “maneki neko” stands in front of a pachinko gambling parlor, left paw raised to bring windfall.
The karaoke sign welcomes all customers, even those who screech out of key.
From birth, the Japanese are introduced to Hello Kitty and friends.
Children’s attractions often have cat mascots, including this Ikebukuro Sunshine City pop-up.
Hello Kitty appears on the most unexpected of products, like a popcorn machine.
Yes, there’s even a Hello Kitty amusement park: Sanrio Puroland.
At Puroland, the young audience goes nuts when Kitty appears.
In addition to this Day-Glo musical, the theme park has rides and multiple gift shops.
Earless robot cat Doraemon, who debuted in 1969, is another fan favorite.
Many Japanese cannot keep pets in their small apartments, so they visit cat cafes.
Here, they can put cats in costumes and read manga (comic books).
Over a dozen purebreds roam freely in Shinjuku’s Calico Cafe.
Those who own cats can spoil them with custom jewelry.
Scottish Folds are an especially coveted breed. Folded-eared kittens sell at high prices.
These cakes, from Swimmer in Shinjuku Studio Alta, are too cute to eat.
At the Alice in Wonderland theme restaurant, risotto comes shaped like the Cheshire Cat.
The chef used stencils and layered ingredients to make this pizza.
Even at 7-Eleven, the steamed buns are cat-tacular.
Don’t worry, this milky sake isn’t made with fur.
When Hello Kitty’s fans grow up, they can wear her chic clothing line.
These purses and dresses are sold inside the trendy, young women’s department store Shibuya 109.
Sanrio also collaborates with international brands, such as Reebok shoes.
For Gothic Lolitas, h.NAOTO has a spooky cat brand, Hangry & Angry.
Cat-faced purses are hot items in Shibuya 109 and Studio Alta.
Japanese schoolgirls might like this backpack with a fuzzy tail.
This pillow encourages curling up and relaxing at home.
Only in Japan: books filled with kitten photos, sold in Kinokuniya Bookstores.
At Design Festa, some attendees “cosplay” as cats.
There are also professional makeup artists who help people achieve a feline face.
Cats even turn up in rope bondage products.
In Nakano, two kitties brighten up the wall by the subway tracks.