Cat-themed event held in Nara

Members of the “Nyara-machi Neko Art” event organizing committee with photo panels depicting cats
PHOTO: Japan News/ANN

NARA - Cats take the spotlight at an event being held in an area in Nara noted for preserving its traditional streetscape.

"Nyara-machi Neko Art," which will continue until June 30, features not only works of art, but cat-shaped confectionery, makeup themed around felines, candles in the form of cat, and much more.

The event, held in the area known as Naramachi, involves 44 local shops and restaurants. Shop owners who like cats first held the event in 2004 with the aim of revitalizing the area.

Some people refer to the district affectionately as "nyara-machi." "Nyara" is a portmanteau combining Nara and nya (meow), an onomatopoeic term for the sound a cat makes, while "machi" means town.

The event had been known as "Nyara-machi Neko Matsuri" (Cat festival in Nyara-machi). Many cat-lovers visit the event every year, as the district became to be known as a town of cats. However, some people misunderstood this name and believe the district was overrun by stray cats. Therefore, the event organising committee changed its name this year.

About 100 colour cutout photo panels in total, each depicting a cat, are on display at the shops and restaurants for the first time this year.

About half of the cats featured in the photos became strays after being abandoned and for other reasons. Each panel includes the profile of the featured cat and contact information for animal protection organisations to help them find new owners.

"I hope visitors enjoy walking around Naramachi while chatting about cats with shop owners and other visitors," said Kosaku Ueda, a member of the organisation committee. "I also want this event to be an opportunity for people to consider keeping cats as pets for their entire lives."

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