It is no big secret that no matter what country you are in, they are going to simply love cats.  This is especially true for Japan.  In fact, whenever you take a quick glance at anything that is even remotely related to Japanese pop culture, you will see signs of cats.  For example, you have Hello Kitty, electronic cat ears that you can wear and respond to how you are feeling emotionally, and even cat cafes.  As if that weren’t enough, there are even several different comics that have grown to become massively popular that revolve around cats.  And to top it off, throughout the country you can find famous shrines that have been dedicated to cats and people take their Japanese cat names seriously.

Love and Fear of Cats

While you will be able to find cats everywhere you go in Japan, it is very easy to say that they are very well-loved.  While that is true, the opposite is also true, Japan fears cats.  This is because in Japan, there is a very long and often times terrifying history of different folklore that involves supernatural and monstrous cats.  The magic catlore of Japan is very deep and very wide, ranging from magical shapeshifters, all the way to demonic corpse eaters.

The History of Cats in Japan

While it is not known how or even when cats originally first appeared in Japan, the best guess that has been made is that cats had traveled down what was known as the ‘Silk Road’, from Egypt.  This would bring cats to Korea and China, eventually making their way across the water to the country of Japan.  They would have made this journey as either ‘ratters’ who were in charge of guarding the precious Buddhist sutras that were written on vellum, or as some type of expensive gift that was to be traded between the different emperors in order to curry up favor.  With that being said, there is a very good chance that both of these things both happened, just at different times in Japan’s history.

The very first confirmed instance of cats being in Japan is going to be in the pages of an ancient diary that was written by a 17-year old Emperor who was known as Emperor Uda on March 11, 889 CE.  In the diary passage, the young emperor writes about the cat and how much he enjoyed having it around.

While cats were originally traded as a type of priceless object throughout all of Japan, they would have the capability to do something that no other gems or treasures were able to do, reproduce.  The cats in Japan would start to make more cats.  As the centuries went on, more cats would breed and spread until about the 12th century, when they would be common all over the entire island of Japan.

Cats Gain Magical Powers

According to Japanese folklore, whenever something is able to live too long, they will start to manifest their own magical powers.  This is more than evident in the folk belief amount the foxes, snakes, tanuki, and even the chairs in Japan.  But since cats are not originally indigenous to Japan, the powers that cats are able to manifest are going to be very unique and come in a number of different forms.  Since cats are from outside of the known world of Japan, the people living on the island were not familiar with them at all.  They had no idea where they came from and why they were so mysterious by nature, how they were able to seemingly stretch to some very unnatural proportions, how they were able to walk without making any kind of sound, and even why they had glowing eyes that would seem to change shape during the night.  When you combine all of these together, you have the perfect recipe for an animal that is magical.

When it comes to cats in Japan, they are going to be one of the most beloved creatures on the entire island.  Just know that at the very same time, they are also going to be an animal that can also possess magical powers and abilities at the very same time.  Because of this, cats have been able to become a major part of not just the Japanese people, but throughout the history of Japanese history and folklore as well.  No matter what Japanese folklore may say about cats, they are by far one of the best animals that you can have as a pet and will continue to be so for many generations to come.