February 22 marked the 30th anniversary of National Cat Day in Japan, also known as “Nyan Nyan Nyan” Day. (“Nyan” translates as “meow” in Japanese.) This quirky national holiday began in 1987 as a fun-filled day dedicated to all things feline.
It’s a good day to pray for your cat’s longevity. But most use it as an excuse to dress up like cats, eat cat-themed cuisine, buy cat statues and watch videos of cat celebrities Maru and Shironeko.
Japan was the first nation to have a cat cafe and is known around the world for Aoshima, the most famous of the cat islands where cats outnumber humans and where every day is Neko no Hi , or Cat Day.
Japan also brought us the very modern Sanrio, the “Hello Kitty” cartoon character and the seventeenth-century legend of Maneki-neko, the beckoning temple cat said to bring good luck. Red-and-white Maneki-neko cat statues are sold everywhere, but are found in great profusion at the Gotokuji temple in the village of Setagaya near Tokyo.
Still, we prefer real life cats like the famously calm and serene Shironeko.