(From Asahi Shimbun)
By Kenji Tsuji, Staff Writer
Hachiko, the faithful Akita dog immortalized in a bronze statue in front of Tokyo’s JR Shibuya Station, now has a companion: a live cat.
The feline can be found curled up in the space at the dog’s forelegs several times a month, to the delight of foreign tourists and other visitors to the popular meeting spot featured in numerous international guidebooks.
Whenever the cat takes up residence at the statue, it draws a crowd eager to snap photos. Hachiko symbolizes the devotion of a dog of the same name to its master in the early 20th century.
Kiyoshi Izawa, 76, who is from Kato, Hyogo Prefecture, was waiting for an acquaintance near the landmark when he spotted the cat in late October.
He said the canine-feline combination “may be a big plus in promoting international exchange.”
After a while, a man wearing a black T-shirt approached the cat and picked it up in front of puzzled onlookers. He then walked off with it toward a subway entrance at the busy rail hub.
The man, 67, said the cat, a 5-year-old male, is one of about 30 felines he keeps at his home in Tokorozawa, Saitama Prefecture. A huge cat lover since childhood, the man said his collection includes some he has taken in from his neighbors.
In June, the retiree from a Tokyo publishing company began traveling to Shibuya about four times a month, taking one of his cats in a carrier with him. He lets the cat stay at the foot of the statue for about an hour.
“I would like my cat to give comfort to people,” he said, explaining his motivation. “If foreign tourists take pictures of my cat with the statue and post them online, then people who see them may feel like visiting Japan.”
His travels with a cat to Tokyo’s notable sites began more than a decade ago.
After visiting Inokashira Park in the Kichijoji area, on the outskirts of Tokyo, several times, an elderly woman approached him and his feline companion one day and asked him to continue to bring the cat.
She said seeing the cat soothed her feelings. Read more