Japan celebrates National Cat Day to delight of internet

It’s the national holiday the internet has been waiting for; today Japan celebrates the 30th annual Cat Day.

Maru, Japan's most famous cat.
Maru, Japan's most famous cat. Image by I Am Maru blog

While many countries do have national days to celebrate cats, none have embraced the day with as much enthusiasm as the Japanese. Cat ownership in the country was estimated at ten million in 2009 - one of the highest per capita rates in the world -and the number is expected to have increased since then.

The tradition began in 1987 when the Executive Cat Day Committee polled nearly 9,000 cat enthusiasts who selected 22 February as Cat Day. The date is significant as the Japanese word for the number two resembles the word “nyan”, the Japanese for “meow”. Therefore the date sounds like “meow meow meow” in Japanese.

Memorabilia for 'Marie Day'.
Memorabilia for 'Marie Day'. Image by Disney Store Japan

The day has become a commercial success in recent years, with pet stores offering special feline promotions and the Japanese Disney Store promoting the day as ‘Marie Day’ - after a popular character from 1972 movie ‘The Aristocats’ - with a range of cat-themed accessories. The real celebration, however, is online with people using the day as an excuse - in case they needed one - to post their photos and videos of their beloved pets.

Should you wish to take the celebrations offline however, you can always visit the remote island of Aoshima, the most famous of the dozen ‘cat islands’ in Japan. The island has seen a significant rise in tourism recently as people come to marvel at the furry felines that outnumber humans six to one. Here, at least, every day is Cat Day.

Aoshima, Japan.
Aoshima, Japan. Image by Sayoko Shimoyama / CC BY 2.0

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