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National Cat Day Japan: What is it and how is it celebrated?

Man holding cat
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Of all the National Cat Days in the world, National Cat Day Japan is without a doubt one of the biggest. This kitty-crazy nation has always had a deep love and affection for our feline friends who they believe have protective powers that bring luck and good fortune to all who own them.

Now in its 35th year, this event is one of the most popular in the Japanese calendar of annual celebrations and continues to get bigger and better with each February that rolls around. Throughout the country in communities both large and small, people come together to pay tribute to this beloved island nation's most popular pet.

And while you may not live in Japan, if you’re obsessed with all things feline, you’ll love hearing about how this day got started and the many beautiful ways the country celebrates. Besides, who says that just because you reside in some other corner of the globe that you can’t join in on all the festivities?! To help you do just that, here’s everything you need to know about National Cat Day Japan…

What is National Cat Day Japan?

While the origins of National Cat Day are often traced back to when the event first began in the U.S. in 2005, from what we can tell, the first National Cat Day actually took place in Japan in 1987, making it the longest running National Cat Day in the world.

Cat Day has always been one of the most popular celebrations in the annual calendar and that’s largely because our feline friends have always had a very special place in the hearts of the Japanese people.

This relationship began back in the sixth century, when cats were brought to Japan on ships from China. From the minute their furry paws set foot on the docks, they were seen as good luck and folklore has an interesting tale as to how this all came to be.

It’s said that centuries ago a feudal lord was standing under a tree when he noticed a cat sitting close by who appeared to be waving his paw at him. The lord’s curiosity got the better of him and he began to approach the cat, as he moved away from the tree, a bolt of lightning hit the exact spot he’d been standing in and thus the cat forever became immortalized as a symbol of protection, blessing, and good fortune.

While this relationship between the Japanese people and our feline friends has always been strong, it wasn’t until a cat committee met in 1987 that the nation decided it was finally time to allocate a set day to celebrate their favorite pet and so National Cat Day Japan was born.

When is National Cat Day Japan?

Waving cat figurine

(Image credit: Getty Images)

National Cat Day Japan falls on the 22nd of February each year and the reason for choosing it couldn’t be cuter. The date 2-22 can be pronounced ni-ni-ni, which sounds very close to nyan-nyan-nyan, the Japanese equivalent of a cat’s meow. See? We told you it was super cute!

How is National Cat Day celebrated in Japan?

The Japanese people go all out on National Cat Day, which is no surprise given how much they love their kitty companions. Children get into the spirit by doing cat art that is then displayed at local libraries, schools and community centers. 

Shops sell a variety of cat-themed novelty items and adults often partake in cosplay, dressing up as their favorite animated cat. You’ll also find sushi and baked goods made into the shape of a cat and of course, there’s plenty of pet parents taking to social media to share sweet snaps of their feline friends all decked out for the occasion.

Japanese railway firms also get into the spirit, selling commemorative train tickets that come paired with a photo of a popular local feline. The tickets even come stamped with a cat-shaped design to make them extra memorable. 

There’s just no getting around it, when it comes to National Cat Day, Japan has thought of everything. While it’s too late to head there this year, if you love our feline friends as much as this country does, we can’t think of a more purr-fect place to celebrate in 2023 than this cat-crazy nation!

Kathryn is a freelance writer who has spent the past two years dividing her writing time between her two great loves - pets and health and wellness. When she’s not busy crafting the perfect sentence for her features, buying guides and news pieces, she can be found hanging out with one very mischievous Cocker Spaniel, drinking copious amounts of Jasmine tea and attempting to set numerous world records for the longest ever FaceTime calls with her family back home in NZ.