Feline fans flock to see lucky bent-tailed cats of Japan

NAGASAKI, Japan (The Japan News/ANN) - A tourist facility has started in Nagasaki for cat lovers featuring lucky “omagari neko” - bent-tailed cats , as Nagasaki Prefecture has many cats of this kind.

A tourist facility for cat lovers featuring lucky “omagari neko” — bent-tailed cats — has opened in Nagasaki, as many cats of this kind are said to live in Nagasaki Prefecture.

 The shrine-like facility called Omagari Neko Jinja was established by a local citizens organization, Nagasaki Neko Gakkai (Nagasaki cat society), which has been studying bent-tailed cats.

 The society sells items, holds events and disseminates information — all related to cats —  at the facility. “We want many visitors to become familiar with this place as a center of activity,” a member of the society said.

 According to Nagasaki Neko Gakkai, omagari neko is a general term for cats with a kink in their tails, including those with bent tails or short round tails. Their key-shaped tails are said to bring good luck.

 About 80 percent of cats in Nagasaki Prefecture are omagari cats, the highest percentage of all the nation’s prefectures and about double the national average, said Ken Nozawa, a professor emeritus at Kyoto University.

 Cats of this kind are said to be common in Indonesia, so the organization thinks they came to Nagasaki via ships of the Dutch East India Company, which was based in Jakarta and conducted trade with Asian nations. Then they spread to Nagasaki Prefecture from Dejima, an artificial island in the bay of Nagasaki where the Dutch traders resided in the Edo period (1603-1867), according to the society. 

 Nagasaki Neko Gakkai proposed creating the facility to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the society’s establishment.

 It renovated an about 30-square-meter vacant store on the first floor of a multi-tenant building in Nagasaki, and attracted about 1,700 visitors from its opening on April 26 through the Golden Week holiday. 

 The society has investigated the roots of omagari cats, and studied measures to promote local areas using cats. Three years ago, it planned a tour to observe cats, but had to abandon the idea because there were no tourist sites related to felines.

 Based on this experience, it decided to establish a new facility, and received about ¥2 million in a subsidy from the municipal government in fiscal 2018.

 About 200 cat-themed items such as snacks and mugs are available at the facility. The society members stationed there explain the history of omagari cats and share good places in town for seeing cats. It also plans to hold an event related to cats.

 “This place has a strong appeal for cat lovers. It’s also Instagrammable,” said a female company official who visited Nagasaki from Fukuoka on a sightseeing trip with a friend.

“Omagari neko cats are living evidence of the history of relations between Nagasaki and overseas. I want this place to attract cat lovers,” said society chairman Shigeyuki Nishijima.