Date of Award
Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) in Graphic Design and University Honors
Art + Design
Cats -- Japan -- Folklore, Cats in art, Folklore -- Japan, Graphic arts
Cats are strange and mysterious creatures. Cultures all around the world have created myths and legends surrounding house cats, stories laden with superstition and usually a touch of fear. In most of the West we have black cats and their association with witches and black magic. In Ancient Egypt, as most of us know, cats were worshipped as sacred animals. And in Japan there are bakeneko.
I use bakeneko as a general term, but what I am really referring to is kaibyo, which is a Japanese word used to describe supernatural or "strange" cats. And Japan has a lot of them. Almost since cats were first introduced to the archipelago in the mid-800s, stories have come about of their strange powers, their propensities toward shape-shifting, and all other sorts of strange myths.
But if you're like me, you may be wondering: why? What about cats and culture in general has led to this inevitable fascination, and sometimes demonization, of our domestic feline friends? The more I read about these legends, the more I wondered on these questions, and the deeper I had to go to find the answers. So join me in looking at the origins of these strange cats, and the underlying factors that have helped form Japan's complicated relationship with these mysterious and wonderful creatures.
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Taulbee, Cedar, "BAKENEKO: a Look into the Origins of Japan's Supernatural Cats" (2021). University Honors Theses. Paper 965.