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Thursday, 6 January 2011

Certain Domestic Cats of Japan, 1720-1878


Japanese bobtail cat, domestic: Kano (?), c. 1878 (Library of Congress)

For you fleas too,
The night must be long,
It must be lonely.

-- Issa (1763-1828), translated by Reginald Horace Blyth (1889-1964)

[Domestic cat]

Domestic cat: Kano (?), c. 1878 (Library of Congress)

Asakusa tanbo torinomachi mōde

Asakusa ricefields and Torinomachi Festival, with
cat sitting on wall where the sliding panels have been opened, watching the festival procession in the rice paddies nearby, view of Mount Fuji in the distance
Andö Hiroshige, (1797-1858), 1857 (Library of Congress)

A man engaged in metalwork appears to be melting statues to reuse the metal, with a kitten next to his left leg: Katsushika Hokusai (1760-1849), between 1790-1840 (Library of Congress)

Domestic cat nursing kittens: Tachibana Morikuni (1679-1748), c. 1720 (Library of Congress)

Cat with black markings on its fur and a fragrant rose mallow: Tachibana Morikuni (1679-1748), c. 1720 (Library of Congress)

Fumi yomu yūjo

Woman seated on a bench reading a letter, one end of which a cat is playing with from under the bench: Torii Kiyomitsu, (1735-1785), between 1757-1783 (Library of Congress)

Gyōja Bushō

Woman, wearing kimono design identifying her as Gyöja Bushö, holding a toy on a string, playing with a cat: Kubo Shunman (1757-1820), between 1804-1818 (Library of Congress)

Neko o idaku musume

Young lady holding a cat: Eisen Ikeda (1790-1848), between 1843-1846 (Library of Congress)

The other day I went to see Dr. Suzuki, who is now, as you know, 93 years old. I asked him a question, holding a cat in my arms, "Which is more important, to be fond of cats (that is, to write haiku) or to understand Zen?" He answered, "They are one and the same thing", and I said to him, "You have passed your examination." But I did not really think so. To be fond of cats and to understand Zen are equally important because they are the same thing. Yes, this is so, but at the same time, what is more important is to be fond of cats.

R.H. Blyth to James W. Hackett, April 1964

[A cat cleaning its claws]

A cat cleaning its claws: Katsushika Hokusai (1760-1849), between 1830-1850 (Library of Congress)


Anonymous said...

I would like to think that this fragment of a larger whole will provoke thought and impart peace, comfort and amusement for 1,000 years (or so; I'm fairly worried about this millenium, so I'm trusting that the next millenium can take care of itself).



beautiful (cat) prints -- and yes --

The night must be long,
It must be lonely.


light coming into sky above black plane
of ridge, motionless leaves on branches
in foreground, wave sounding in channel

lights still on tree, white
ones and two reds too

pattern of stars, shoulders
and knees, dark black

silver of sunlight reflected in channel,
white of cloud on horizon next to point

TC said...

in a thousand years
cats will still have fleas

and lights still be on trees, white
ones and two reds too

pattern of stars, shoulders
and knees, dark black

and blue millennium

Julia said...

I hope so, Tom!

You can imagine how I love the text you present us today... =) Thank you!

Ed Baker said...

I was just looking over some of Katsushika Hokusai's
"The Dream of the Fisherman'sa Wife"

(I wonder if the first part of "Katsushika"
translates to "cat"

actually would like to know what the entire name translates into..

any-way your post

The Cat's Meow!"


TC said...

Ed, Julia, many thanks for stopping in at the cat party... you will remember it by the flea bites perhaps.

All three of our cats have been ill, one after the other, two have recovered, the third, old and slow anyway, is really struggling now -- this post was a sort of offering to the cat gods, on his behalf.

Julia said...

Desde aquí hacemos nuestras ofrendas a los ángeles guardianes de los gatos para que tu gato se sienta bien.



yes, and once again,

The night must be long

(hope you got some sleep)


light coming into sky above still black
ridge, silver of planet beside branches
in foreground, wave sounding in channel

white moon through branches
of tree, Orion rising

whether thought, other than,
how the saying sounds

cloudless blue sky reflected in channel,
white of cloud on horizon next to point

Julia said...

How are you and the big cat today, Tom?

TC said...

Yes, yes, Julia, every creature needs its guardian angels...

Very sweet and considerate of you both, Julia and Steve, to enquire about the ailing one.

He has been with us nearly 15 years, having been left behind by a pair of agéd Russian brothers who passed away one after another -- they lived just behind us, and their pair of then-youthful white cats, brother and sister, were left to fend for themselves. Inevitably, over time, they showed up here. The big male is very gentle and graceful, but has not been well in recent years. And so when another of the local half-wild cast of cats passed on a virus to our big adventurous Siamese male, he in turn gave it to the pair of whites. The feisty little female recovered, but the big male has serious respiratory problems now. So, yes, we have been up much of the last several nights with him.

And this bit of Steve's poem

white moon through branches
of tree,

did remind me of him.