Cats: you either love them or you hate them. But not in Japan; in Japan, cats are a universally beloved part of culture and are believed to bring good fortune with them wherever they go. Why is that? Well, the lore surrounding cats in Japan goes back centuries, so if you want to find out how Japan’s obsession with cats began, keep reading on.
You might not have known about the popularity of cats in Japan, but you’ve definitely seen the lucky cat figurine of a feline raising its paw in the air. Sound familiar? This Japanese figurine is called the maneki-neko, which means “beckoning cat” in Japanese, and though its exact origins are unknown, the earliest recordings of the maneki-neko can be found an entry in the Bukō nenpyō, a chronology of Edo (the former name for Tokyo), from 1852. Legend has it that the maneki-neko was inspired by a feudal lord’s encounter with a cat. The lord was standing under a tree when he noticed a cat waving to him. Intrigued, he approached the curious cat and right as he walked away from the tree, a lightning bolt struck where he had been standing. And thus, the maneki-neko was born, and so was Japan’s obsession with cats.
Cats have a lot of importance in Japanese media as well. In 1906, for instance, author Natsume Soseki published a book called I Am a Cat, which told from the perspective of a witty household cat as the narrator, and the novel went on to inspire other authors to write stories centered around cat main characters.
Fast forward nearly seventy years to 1974, when the beloved fictional character Hello Kitty was created by Sanrio. Hello Kitty spawned from the ever-growing popularity of the kawaii aesthetic, and after the adorable cartoon made its debut, both kawaii and cats in general reached a level of notoriety that ended up changing the fabric of Japanese culture forever.
Whether you’re a proud cat owner looking to rep your feline friend with some seriously sweet swag, or you’re looking for the perfect gifts for the cat lovers in your life, Bokksu has tons of cat-tastic products to choose from that are sure to scratch your itch.
Cats make everything exciting, right? Why not take your average, everyday beverages to the next level with these Premium Cat Glasses from Aderia Co.? Available in a Calico, Tabby, and Spotted design, these loveable cups have a paw attached to the bottom that make them look like a cat. (We also have regular Cat Glasses that don’t use a gold design for the cat’s markings, in case you’re more of a silver person.) Plus, you can take the cat theme even further with the Nekocha Green Tea Bags from Yamasu Sugimoto Shoten! Each tea bag has a frisky cat design attached to it that fits perfectly on the rim of your tea mug to keep you company as you wait for your tea to steep.
Remember when we were talking about the maneki-neko earlier? Bring the luck of the beckoning cat into your home and your tea ceremonies with the Zabuton Cushion: Red
Maneki-neko. A zabuton is a floor cushion often used for kneeling during tea ceremonies, and this one comes decked out with a unique take on the classic maneki-neko figurine you know and love. Each cushion is handmade with traditional Edo manufacturing methods and designed by Kosaku Ohno. Finally, we couldn’t end this list without throwing in some Japanese snacks as well! If you didn’t know, the term “langue de chat” means “cat’s tongue” in French, and the biscuit treats named after the phrase are super popular in Japan. At the Bokksu Market, you can score some extra sweet Yubari Melon Chocolate De Chat cookies, which feature a yubari melon and cantaloupe-flavored creamy center, or opt for a more earthy flavor profile with the Nara Wa Langue De Chat Match Cookies from Taguchi Seika!
By Jillian Giandurco