It is February 22nd! Anddd today is National Cat Day in Japan.
Thus, we at The Book Cafe want to celebrate it by presenting the Top 5 books from Japanese Literature that feature none other than our favourite feline creatures, CATS!
Japan loves its cats. They feature in legends and folklore. There are even shrines dedicated to them such as Nekonomiya (Shrine of the Cat) in Yamagata Prefecture or the Nekojinja (Cat Shrine) on the island of Tashirojima in the Miyagi Prefecture. And of course the ubiquitous maneki neko (the beckoning cat) beckons through most shops and restaurants.
Unsurprisingly, Japanese literature also boasts of several books that centre on cats or have cats as prominent characters.
Let’s take a look at the Top 5 Japanese novels that are about cats:
I am sure many hardcore Murakami fans will swear by the magic realism and surreal feel of his novel, Kafka on the Shore.
And it sure has a touch of the bizarre and the other worldly.
Kafka on the Shore starts with a 15 year old boy deciding to runaway from his father to live on his own under the pseudonym, Kafka Tamura. The novel than traces his journey where he meets other characters such as Sakura who is a hair dresser and who he thinks might be his sister. Then he stumbles on a job in the library that he had visited and finds a home there. At the library, he meets Oshima, who is the assistant, and the owner, Miss Saeki, who has her own melancholic back story.
Parallelly, the novel touches upon a curious incident that happened in the Yamanashi Prefecture where a group of children suddenly became unconsciously. It then focuses on one of those students, Mr. Nakata, who after the accident lost the ability to read and write but could mysteriously talk to cats. Consequently, he was the cat finder of his area in Nakano where he stayed.
Talking to cats is just one in the series of bizarre things to pop up in the novel.
I am slowly starting to read some Murakami. The first book of his that I read was Strange Library which was indeed strange and had such a beautiful cover featuring a library card!
Next I read Desire, part of the Vintage Mini Series, which had five of his short stories. I absolutely adored that book! Read my review here!
Next up was After Dark, which one of my colleagues gave me. I did not mind reading it since she said it was only 200 pages long. I am going through a phase where I somehow cannot commit to books that are too long because I do not get time to read them!
Vintage Minis is a series launched in 2017 by Penguin that is characterised by its brevity and universal themes of what makes us human.
Desire is the theme the publishing house chose for Haruki Murakami’s five short stories that are taken from three of his following short story collections:
- Elephant Vanishes
- Blind Willows, Sleeping Women
- Men Without Women
While I did not really go looking for the theme of desire in each short story, I did enjoy all five of them since each had its own unique tale to tell.
Starting with The Second Bakery Attack that is narrated as an anecdote of the past of how a newly married couple found itself gnawed by a hunger that they had never known before and which they could only satisfy through a curious robbery!