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To really understand the Japanese Bobtail, one must read about the history of Japan, especially about the Edo-period and Meiji-period:
  • about the imperial life at the palace of the emperor: about the role of women, about the concubines of the aristocracy
  • about Japanese language to speak in lyric verses and symbolic indications and references
  • about the art full of symbols, especially about the technique of woodblock-cutting and prints, and the art of making dolls
  • about the many varieties of religion(s), the temples and shrines, and gifts offered by prayers.

This article tries, very shortly, to give you an impression, how much the history of the Japanese Bobtail is involved into the culture and the traditions of Japan, and how precious this cat breed is.

 
Japanese Bobtail exist in all colors and patterns, except pointed and ticked. Desired are bold, expressive and dramatic colors full of contrast.
Just think on the Japanese opera and its actors, with their white faces painted with contrasting, bold colors.
  • White,
  • black, blue, red, cream, tortie and blue-cream.
Japanese Bobtail LH white
GRC. GRP. Kurisumasu Yukusaki of Arrow
Breeder: Marianne Clark, Kurisumasu cattery, Oregon, USA
Owner: Linda Osburn, Arrow cattery, USA
Japanese Bobtail LH black
Samiz Senaka Kuroi
Breeder: Lisa & Samantha Rowe, Samiz cattery, Ohio, USA
 
  • All these colors exist also with silver, as smoke, shaded and chinchilla, and silver tabby, for example blue smoke, tortie smoke, blue-cream smoke, red silver tabby, tortie silver spotted, cream silver mackerel, etc.
Japanese Bobtail SH tortie silver spotted bicolor
Samiz Nokku Ni Tengoku Doa
Breeder: Lisa & Samantha Rowe, Samiz cattery, Ohio, USA
 
  • All these colors may have a tabby pattern, blotched, mackerel and spotted, also silver tabby.
  • All these colors exist with white, as Van, Bicolor and Tricolor. For example smoke bicolor, blue tabby Van, chinchilla bicolor, etc.
Japanese Bobtail LH red-white
CH Kurisumasu Jitto's Yokei Na
Breeder: Marianne Clark, Kurisumasu cattery, Oregon, USA
Owner: Yukiko Terashima, Yuki-Usagi cattery, Sapporo, Hokkaido, Japan
Japanese Bobtail SH red-white
GC, RW Yuki-Usagi Inaho
Breeder: Yukiko Terashima, Yuki-Usagi cattery, Sapporo, Hokkaido, Japan
 

Literature

The Tale of Genji von Murasaki Shikibu, written about 1011: chapter 34 and 35, where Chinese Cats are mentioned in literature for the first time.
This e-book is a translation by Edward G. Seidensticker (11.2.1921 - 26.8.2007), which you also may download from Globusz Publishing or may read online: The link directs you to the letter M of the authors, where you will find Murasaki, Shikibu.

The Tale of Genji, Unesco Global Heritage Pavilion, illustrated with woodblock cuts by Harumasa Yamamoto (1610-1682)

The Tale of Genji, with photos of the locations of the novel

And for people speaking Japanese:
Genji Monogatari, in original language and romanized scripting.

Maneki Neko Club (in Japanese) with woodblock-cuts of the various periods:
On top of the page underneath the title you will find a menu with the different periods of emperors starting with [index].

Setagaya Folktales The Last Story:
Newsletter of the municipal of Setagaya from January 2006

Website about Percival Lowell (13.3.1855 - 12.11.1916), sales man, philosopher, astronomer, travel writer: His report about the Japanese Bobtail of one of his journeys in Oya Shiradzu-Ko Shiradzu in Echigo (Niigata prefecture).

The Kuru Fuku Maneki Neko Festival in Seto, Kanko Kyokai saturday-sunday around Sept. 29.

Maneki Neko museum in Seto

Maneki Neko The Beckoning Cat and Nang Kwak.
Nang Kwak is a Thai deity for prosperity, who was depicted in earlier times as young woman kneeing on a money bag, but is now in newer times depicted with a beckoning hand like the Maneki neko.

There is also a comic strip, called Genji Monogatari, produced in 1987.

You may look at beautiful photos of the Gotokuji-Temple, made by Philbert Ono: Photoguide JP, Japan: in Pictures & English.

Maneki Neko - Feline Fact and Fiction, Alan Scott Pate, Antique Dolls in Ojo de la Vaca, New Mexico, USA; article published in the Daruma-magazine No 11, 1996

You can admire the many woodblock cuts with cats made by Kuniyoshi on the web site of The Kuniyoshi project. There you will find many more Bobtail-cats.

Maneki Neko
Attributes and meaning of colors of the Maneki Neko

The Maneki Neko is best known as tricolor cat, which means in general luck.
But it exists also in many other colors:

  • white: for purity and that positive things may come into the house
  • black: to protect from all evil
  • red: for love, for a happy marriage
  • green: for wealth or for a good education
  • gold: for prosperity and well-being
  • pink: for good relations and for romance
  • mi-ke (tricolor): in general for luck

 

With the color  "Gold" there is connected the well known story about two rivaling tea houses in Edo, 19th century:

The eastern tea house had as entrance symbol a golden Maneki Neko.
The western tea house had as entrance symbol a silver Maneki Neko. Both tea houses were located near the Eko-in Temple, in Ryogoku, Tokyo.
The owner of the eastern tea house, Yahei, was very lazy, whilst his wife, O-Tsuna, was popular for her charm and friendliness towards her guests, thus the tea house owing her its success.
An old patron, a cloth vendor, called Hachirobei, was very found of O-Tsuna.
One evening, when the bills of her husband once more raised up, O-Tsuna managed to persuade Hachirobei to five her a larger amount of money. Unfortunately this money was not his own, it was the money of another cloth vendor, which he had collected for him.
After Hachirobei left the "golden" tea house, he started to think, what he did with the money, was not correct, and he resolved to jump from the Ryogoku-Bashi-bridge into the Sumida-river. When he crossed the bridge he met O-Tsuna, to whom he told the story, that the money had not been his own. She was so ashamed to have cajoled the money from him and resolved also to jump into the river.
Thus Hachirobei and O-Tsuna jumped together into the river and committed double suicide (called shinju in Japanese).
This story caused great sensation, and the golden tea house staged the story. The silver tea house ran down and very soon had to be closed.

There is a very well known woodblock-cut of Kitagawa Utamaro II (died 1831): Otsuna and Hachirobei, figures of a Kabuki-stage.

a courtesan  
Dramatic, intense and bold colors are desired in the Japanese Bobtail.

Mostly the Maneki Neko is known to beckon with its left paw, but there are also other poses:

  • beckoning with the right paw: money may com into the house, there may be good fate
  • beckoning with the left paw: to invite visitors and friends
  • beckoning with both paws: to protect the house and the business

You will find the Maniki Neko in front of many Japanese restaurants, and also in front of shops.

Mostly the Maneki Neko wears a bib, a bell and hold a golden coin in its paw:

  • Bib (maedare) and bell:
    Often Jizo-statues are decorated with a bib to pray that sick children may recover. Often toy dogs and imperial dolls also wear a bib. Well known is the cat series of Kuniyoshi (1797-1861), who depicted the cats with richly ornamented bibs.
    Often a row of bells decorate the bib.
    The bib is very artificially decorated and depicted.
  • Gold coin (koban):
    A gold coin, as it was usual in the Edo-period. One Koban is about 1 ryo (about 1000 Dollar). The coin may be the symbol for prosperity. Modern Maneki Neko often have a gold coin with the value of 10 million ryo in their paw.
    Connected with the gold coin is a story of a cat of the Eko-in Temple in Tokyo:

The Eko-in Temple in Ryogoku,
at the river Sumida, Tokyo, built in 1657 in remembrance of the great fire, which killed more than 100.000 people

There is a grave stone dedicated to a cat from 1816.
A fishmonger, who made his daily tours through Edo, stopped every day at a money changer, called Tokita Kisaburo. he always had a fish, one or two, for the cat of the money changer.
But, the fishmonger got sick and could not make his daily tour. One morning he awoke and found two gold coins besides his futon, which helped him through the time, when he could not work. When he recovered from his illness he stopped at Kisaburo hoping to se the cat. But the cat did not come, and he asked the money changer, who coldly answered him that he had killed the cat. Kisaburo had noticed one morning that the cat had stolen two gold coins. And on the next morning the cat robbed a gold coin again. And on the following next morning the cat wanted to rob once more a gold coin. he became so angry that he killed the cat.
The fishmonger was very sad and told the money changer that he had found two gold coins besides his bed, which he now thought the cat obviously had brought to him caring for him.
The money changer regretted that he had been so wrong, and he gave the other two coins, which the cat wanted to rob also, to the fishmonger.
Later on a grave stone was built to remember the cat, on which is written: "A male animal which did virtuous and good acts."

Hiroshige: woodblock cut
Ando Hiroshige 1797 - 1858

Eurocatfancy

Standard AACE
Standard ACF
Standard ACFA
Standard CCA
Standard CFA
Standard FIFe
only Shorthair
Standard LOOF
Standard SACC
Standard TICA
Standard WCF
 
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Breed profile

The Japanese Bobtail is medium-sized, elegant with a "Japanese face-shape".
The head forms an equilateral triangle, with fine chiseled lines and gentle curves. Cheekbones are high, the muzzle shows a distinct whisker break. The nose is long, with a very slight indentation at the eye brows, and defined by two parallel lines.
The ears are large, set wide apart, but upright (set in a rectangular angle to the skull).
The eyes are large, oval and very distinctly slanted. Eye color might be any, but very attractive are tri-colored cats with blue or odd eyes.
The muzzle is, compared to the head, broad with a clearly visible whisker break.

The body is elongated, slender with straight lines. The legs are long and slender, elegant, but not dainty. The hind legs are noticeable longer than the front legs, but strongly angulated that the back appears almost level.
In general the cat is slender with medium bones, but displays a beautiful musculature.

The tail is bob-tailed - the characteristic of the breed. It might be short and straight, or it may consist of several curves or kinks, but the tail is flexible at the base. The tail looks like a pom-pom with its longer hairs, which grow in all directions and which are thicker than the fur on the body.

The coat is soft and silky, and has almost no undercoat. It is relatively non-shedding.
The Japanese Bobtail may be long-haired or short-haired.
Longhair:
Actually the coat is medium in length and not very long. It lies flat to the body. The cats may have a ruff and britches on the hind legs.
Shorthair:
The coat is medium-short, but not as short as usually in shorthaired cats.

 

History

Japanese Bobtail are indeed from Japan, it is a very old, natural breed, which has developed isolated on the Japanese islands.

Han-period, China 206 BC - 220 AC
capital in Chang'an 206 BC - 24 AC, and Luoyang 25-220 AC

History of the Japanese Bobtail is said to start in China, in the Han-period. If these Chinese cats are Bobtail-cats has to be proved.
But the Japanese word Ne-ko seems to originate from the Chinese words Ne (mouse or rat) and Ko (classic form of 'to like').

Already Confucius (551-479 BC) had a favorite cat.

Song-dynasty, China 960 - 1279
capital of the Northern Song-dynasty in Kaifeng (former Bianjing) 960-1126, capital of the Southern Song-dynasty in Hangzhou 1126-1279

The cats of the Song-dynasty became quite famous, from this period exists a picture with a long-haired Bobtail: Children playing on a winter's day.
It is assumed that cats came to Japan in general from China through Korea.

Nara-period, Japan 710-794
Nara was called Heij˘-ky˘ and was the capital of the empire.

The city of Nara was built according to the construction plans of Chang'an.
In the collection of anecdotes from this time, called Kokon Chobun-shu, it is reported: "The abbot Kwankyo found a fine stray cat in his mountain village, its origin was unknown. He caught and tamed her."

Heian-period, Japan 794 - 1192
capital in Heian (=Kyoto)

The first source in literature, where Chinese cats are mentioned, dates back to around 1011, where they are mentioned in The Tale of Genji:

The Tale of Genji (54 chapters, in Japanese called Genji Monogatari) by Murasaki Shikibu,
translated by Edward G. Seidensticker:

Chapter34, New herbs I (Wakana: Jo): The cat of the Third Princess, daughter of the Emperor Suzuke, became, when she still was a child, the wife of Prince Genji, she owned a cat, which is called a Chinese Cat.
Chapter35, New Herbs II (Wakana: Ge): In that chapter we are told from the cat of the Second Princess, which delivered 5 kittens:
"On September 19, 999 (note the writing: 9-19-999), in the reign of Emperor Ichijō (15.7.980 - 25.7.1011), 66. Tenno from 986-1011, kittens were given birth at the Imperial Palace."

The novel about Prince Genji tells about the imperial life at the emperor's palace during the Heian-period, about several very complex love affairs and confusions, about the life of Prince Genji's wives. The novel is written from the view point of Murasaki, one of Genji's wives (or better to say concubines). In this era it was common and usual that one man had several wives at the same time.

Utagawa Kuniyoshi: Genji Monotagari, chapter 36 The novel also tells us about Kashiwagi, husband of the Second Princess, who fell in love with the Third Princess, who was married to Genji, and produced a son, called Kaoru, with her. To have something to remember on the Third Princess, Kashiwagi managed it to get the cat of the Third Princess.

Woodblock cut by Utagawa Kuniyoshi 1797-1861
Illustration to chapter 36 from Genji Monotagari: depicts Kashiwagi and the cat of the Third Princess

This novel (or roman) was written by Murasaki Shikibu, born 978 in Kyoto and died around 1014 in Kyoto, around 1011, after the Nara-period and before the Kamakura-period. The real name of Murasaki Shikibu is unknown, she took the name of her heroine, the concubine Murasaki. Shikibu became a courtier of the empress Joto Mon'in in 1005, and kept diary from 1001-1010.

During the reign of Emperor Ichijō it was decreed, that it was forbidden for cats to work, thus making it possible for cats being on an aristocratic level and to live at the imperial court. Cats were raised to the so called 5th rank to have an adequate aristocratic rank.

Jish˘in En'yűji temple, document from the middle of the  16th cen tury.

Another story comes from a document kept in the Jish˘in En'yűji Temple, in the city of Ichigaya Tomihisa-ch˘ of Tokyo. The temple was originally founded by , Kūkai (posthumous known as Kōbō-Daishi, 27.7.774 - 22.4.835), a Buddhist monk, who invented the Japanese syllabus script Katakana and Shingon-shū (Shingon-school).
According to this document of the temple there was a fighting between two men, called Toshima and Ota. During the fight Ota lost orientation and stumbled over a black cat, which led him to the temple, where he could recuperate. After gaining back his strength he defeated Toshima. In his gratitude for the little black cat, Ota ordered a Jizō-statue to be made, which displays the face of a cat, what is called neko-men jizō in Japanese.
Jizō (Mahayana Buddhist Bodhisattva, also Ojizō-sama) is a Japanese deity protecting children, who died before their parents, and protects children from the demons of hell.

In 1602 the Japanese authorities decreed that all cats must be conscripted into service to prosecute the rats and mice, which threatened the silkworm farms, which had become an important economic factor. Thus, no one was allowed to keep domestic cats in the house, it was also forbidden to buy or sell cats. From that time forward bobtailed cats were free roaming in the streets and on the farms of Japan, together with normal-tailed cats.

Maneki Neko, the beckoning cat of fortune

The history of the Japanese Bobtail is very closely connected to the Maneki Neko and the Gotokuji Temple in Setagaya (in the west of Tokyo).

It is assumed that the Maneki Neko became known in the Edo-period.
The Maneki Neko statue, made of porcelain, is mostly depicted as tri-color bobtailed cat: tricolor = Mi-ke in Japanese.

Edo-period, also called Tokugawa-Shōgun period, 1603-1867
capital in Edo = Tōkyō

This period, also called the Tokugawa-Bakufu (a tent regime of the Shōguns), was founded by the Tokugawa -Shōgun-dynasty.
A Shōgun is a military rank of the warrior cast, the Samurai, and means Great General.

Kuniyoshi tryptichon
Utagawa Kuniyoshi 1797-1861
Middle image of a tryptichon: The 59 stations of Edo
Please note the many colors - solid, bicolor, tricolor, Van, mackerel, and also white.

Gotokuji-Temple in Setagaya

The temple was originally a very poor monastery, called Kotoku-monastery and built in 1480. It was enlarged by the aristocratic family of Ii in 1697 as temple and was then used as the family's cemetery.
The City Setagaya is located in the west of Tokyo.
Documents of the temple report an event from 1615, where a cat, called Tama, was picked up by a monk. After a while of caring for the cat the monk set the cat free and lamented:
"Kitty, I cannot blame you for not helping, after all you are just a cat. If you were a man, you might do something to help us."

Ii Naotaka (1590-1659), the feudal leader from the province Omi Hikone (in the west of Japan near Kyoto), and also the Lord of Setagaya built up his castle in 1633, he was a famous Samurai and the hereditary owner of the Hikone-castle in Shiga.
Soon after the lamento of the monk (in 1615) a group of Samurai, under the leadership of Ii Naotaka, passed the monastery and was caught by a storm. The Samurai were on their way home to Edo after the victorious siege of Osaka-castle and were hunting.
With the friendly permission of Philbert Ono: Photoguide JP

Cat temple
Cat temple in Gotokuji-Temple

Ii Naotaka searched protection from the storm under a pine in front of the monastery, when the cat, Tama, beckoned to him and lured him into the monastery. Shortly after the pine tree was stroke by lightning, thus the cat is said to have saved Naokata's life. Impressed by the wisdom of the monk and in gratitude for the cat, which saved him from storm, the monastery became the family temple of family Ii and was renamed to Gotokuji-Temple. Up today the temple lives in prosperity, which was founded by family Ii. inside the cat temple
Inside the Cat temple

The cat statues, the gifts of prayers, on the left side of the Cat Temple
Wikitravel, Photo by Paul Richter, Feb. 2003. Licensed under Creative Commons - Attribution Share-Alike
After her death Tama was buried in the cat cemetery inside the Gotokuji-Temple. Many walls of the temple are decorated with bobtailed cats. There is also a Cat Temple inside the area of Gotokuji-Temple.
   
Japanese Bobtail Japanese Bobtail
Maneki Neko had often been made of paper mache (called Hariko) to allow poorer people also to get one.
Hariko-dolls are made of different layers of Hariko-paper, where each layer is varnished, and then the doll is painted.
Pictures with the friendly permission of the Maneki Neko club.

Yamato honzō, by Kaibara Ekken (also called Ekiken or Atsunobu) 1630 - 5.10.1714

The Yamato honzō is a systematic description of Japanese plants.
Kaibara is known for his systematic studies of nature, based on neo-confucianism, and also known for his transformation of the philosophy of Confucius, which was forbidden up to his time, into ordinary normal Japanese language.
Kaibara writes in 1708 about the cat:
"The cat differs from all other mammals in these nine points. First, it cleanses its face when it feels contentedly. Second, it purrs to express gladness. Thirdly, it sharpens its claws when full of valor. Fourthly, its female nurses the kittens of any other females with a perfectly good will. Fifthly, its pupils change their shapes according to the hours of the day. Sixthly, its nose is always cool at the tip. Seventhly, it rejoices when one strokes its throat. Eighthly, it perishes in a place quite out of human sight, as if it wants not to let men see its dying look, which is unusually ugly. Ninthly, it is very passionately fond of matatabi - not only does it eat it, but it also rubs its body on the roots, stem, and leaves of the plant, well knowing it is its superlative panacea."
Remark:
Matatabi, also called silver wine, is a plant from the family of Actinidiacaea, and grows in Japan and China. The plant has, like cat nip, a stimulating effect on cats.

Already in the Edo-period the Maneki neko was depicted in art, for example by Dhi Kanoliu (1874), by Utagawa Toyokuni I (1769 - 24.2.1825), and by Ando Hiroshige (1797 - 12.10.1858), one of the most famous artists of woodblock cutting and printing.

Courtesan Usugumo, 18th century

Kuniyoshi: actors with cat heads

In the Edo-period there were special amusement areas for men, called Yuukaku. One of these famous areas was Yoshiwara, in the east of Tokyo.
There were different ranks amongst the ladies, who were responsible for the amusement of men:

  • the Geisha, a professionally educated hostess, very well educated in music and dance

  • the prostitute, called Yuujo

  • and the hostess for the upper class of rich men, called Tayuu.

A very famous Tayuu (we would call her a courtesan) was Usugumo.
She loved cats and her beloved cat was always with her.
One evening, when she rushed to her powder room, her cat tugged violently at the hem of her kimono and did not want to let her go. The owner of the amusement house came to help Usugumo, and because he thought the cat was bewitched, he cut off the cat's head with his sword. The head of the cat flew to the ceiling, where it killed a poisonous snake, which wanted to kill Usugumo.
Usugumo was very distraught by the unnecessary death of her beloved cat. To make her feeling better, one of her customers gave her a wood-carved statue of her cat, which later on became popular as Maneki Neko.

The Old Woman of Imado, 19th century

Imado is located in the east of Tokyo.
The old woman was very poor and had a cat. But as her poverty worsened, she abandoned her cat. Shortly after that the cat appeared in her dream and instructed her to make clay statues after its image. The old woman started to produce cat statues made of clay, which became very popular amongst people. The more the old woman produced, the more cat statues she could sell. Thus her poverty changed to prosperity.

Meiji-period, 1867-1912

The Maneki Neko was periodically depicted in the Meiji-period, by Shosan and Hiromi.

Meiji, his civil name was Matsuhito, born Nov. 3,1852 in Kyoto, died July 30, 1912 in Tokyo, was the 122nd Tennō of Japan. In his reign the Tokugawa-Shōgun-empire was ended in 1868, the old feudal system was ended, state schools were built and the Gregorian calendar introduced.

In this period the Maneki Neko was reported in a newspaper article in 1876 for the first time. In 1902 the Maneki Neko was advertised.

Cat Day on Feb. 22 (note the writing 2-22)

On Feb. 22, 1987 more than 400 cat lovers met in Tokyo to celebrate Japan's first Cat Day.
They offered prayers for the longevity of their cats and paid respect to a cat, which went 222 miles back to its home, after it was separated from its owner during a trip to the country. When officials surveyed more than 9000 cat people, the 22nd of February was declared as Cat Day to remember on the 222 miles, which the lost cat had journeyed. Also pronunciation of 2-22 in Japanese, ni-ni-ni, resembles a cat meowing.

The first 3 Japanese Bobtail were imported by Elizabeth Freret in 1968 to the US. In 1971 the shorthaired got provisional status and were recognized by CFA for championship in 1976.
The first longhaired Mi-Ke (owner Mrs. Kiyoko Tanaka) was shown in Japan in 1968. The longhair got 2-1991 AOV-status in CFA and was recognized for championship 5-1993.

 

Genetics

The Japanese Bobtail is a natural mutation, which developed isolated on the Japanese islands. The bobtail is inherited recessively, which means that both parents must carry a gene for the bobtailed tail.

 

Temperament

Japanese Bobtail are fine, active and talkative cats with a fine voice. They are very intelligent, like to carry their toys in the mouth, and love to play.
The have a very gentle character and are affectionate to humans. The like to sit on your shoulder, love your companionship and like to talk with you. The breed is unproblematic to breed, and kittens leave the nest quite early.

 

Grooming

The coat is almost non-shedding and easy going. Of course it is good for the longhaired to brush it on a regular basis. But the coat has no tendency to become filthy or knotted, because it has almost no undercoat.

 
Kuniyoshi: series about the catfish Utagawa Kuniyoshi 1797-1861
Pictures from a series about the catfish

Please note in the left picture the tabby Van Bobtail-cat.

Please note below the mackerel Bobtail-cat.

 

Kuniyoshi: series about the catfish
 
 

 
 
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