Thursday, June 2, 2011

Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About Nameneko and Perlorian Cats

Back in April, I did a post about "Busy Day," a children's picture book from the early '80s that featured photographs of real-life kittens, propped up, and costumed in adorable mini-fashions.

The cover of the book said "Perlorian" on it, but what the heck did that mean?

A "Note to Grown-ups" in the introduction, described the "Perlorian Cats" as "very special animals photographed by a very caring group of photographers led by Satoru Tsuda. The cats are specially chosen for their expressive faces and comfort with the photography sessions."

"These photographs are taken at incredibly high shutter speeds to capture a pose and an expression without any discomfort to the cat or cats involved. No artificial substances are used - just love and patience! And the cats seem to respond beautifully to the attention and caring that surround them." I pretty much left it at that, until one of my readers (Hi Megan!) left a comment about Nameneko Cats, and opened my eyes to a whole new world of feline photography!

Some further research revealed a rather in-depth post by Mooky Chick, explaining the origins of the Nameneko and Perlorian Cats (which basically are one in the same, as they were both created by Tsuda), and also uncovered several more images and videos of the clothed kitties via Facebook and YouTube.

Mooky Chick reports:

"In 1980, a young japanese guy called Satoru Tsuda found a wild kitten at his local dry cleaners and took it home to look after it, even though - at the time - cats were the one animal he didn't much like because they kept attacking his birds. He not-so-romantically named it Matakichi after the dry cleaners. It was one of a gang of four, and at first it didn't look like they would survive. But, overcoming his dislike of cats, he fed them milk with a dropper, kept their room warm, wiped their bottoms, cleaned their ears several times a day and took them to work in a basket because he felt they should not be unattended at this vulnerable time in their lives. The kittens began to run after Tsuda as if he was their mother and sleep in his bed at night, and he grew to adore them.

One day Matakichi (the kitten) started playing with some doll costumes his girlfriend had left lying in the house, and in a fated moment Tsuda realised they were the same size! He put the costumes on the kittens as a joke and took photos of the kittens running around in their outfits... and thus the concept of Namen Nayo cats was born."

The cats became an instant hit in Japan, and I came across this Facebook post discussing the phenomenon:

"The next year, a poster of Matakichi appears, dressed up like a "Tsuppari", or Japanese delinquent, in an unbuttoned school uniform with rolled-up sleeves, white t-shirt and belt. His motorcycle antenna banner doesn't display the Rising Sun but a Rising Cat, with the phrase "All Japan Fast Feline Federation -- You Won't Lick Us !" The craze takes off instantly.

Starting from Kyoto, the mecca of cool in Japan, posters and cards of the cats spread to just about every home and office in the country. The "Kitten Without A Cause" image captures the imagination of the Japanese people, who live in a somewhat polite and perhaps repressed society. About 500 different items are produced, including books, watches and panties, and over 8 million posters and 12 million drivers license cards are sold, much to the chagrin of the police who asked that the "deceptive contents" be changed. Pundits and professors analyzed the fad, while the Prime Minister's Office adopted a cat character mascot. Speculation about how they got the cats to stand upright drew debate and protests from animal rights groups. Then, not even six months later, the fad died out as quickly as it started, but not before making Tsuda a wealthy man."

JapanStyle translated that this Nameneko "license" has a location of “Bonito city, Whale prefecture,” and states, “Do not grab handle with your tail” and “Do not use catnip when driving.” Teehee!

The controversy over whether or not the kittens were being abused by using metal posts to prop them up, or even drugs (!) to subdue them, proved to be unfounded. Tsuda himself found the claims to be ridiculous, and explained that the shoots took many people, and much patience to to orchestrate. The kittens were photographed no longer than 10 minutes at a time, and no more than once every three days. It's also been reported that the original kitten, Matakichi, lived happily to the ripe old age of 16. (Mooky Chick also has a more detailed explanation, which you can read here.)

The cats hit the U.S. in 1982, when Topps released a 56 card set of Perlorian Cats Stickers. In addition, at least four English language books by Suzanne Green were created from the photos, including "The Birthday Book", "Going To School", "Seasons", and of course, my very own "Busy Day."

Want to learn more about the Nameneko and Perlorian Cats? Visit these sources for even more pictures and information!

Nameneko - Official Site
Nameneko Cats! - Mooky Chick





Anonymous said...

OMG yay! This is the best.


Catsparella said...

@Megan Thanks for the inspiration! :D

dArtagnan Rumblepurr/Diego Hamlet Moonfur said...

SO cute... but it better not give the Rumbleparents any ideas...

Vicki said...

Vicki remembers those books!!! Thanks for the info about them. We had never thought about how they were actually done....

Cat Wisdom 101 said...

I'm old enough to remember these. The added info made my day, thanks.

Clooney said...

Wow, unbelievable! So cool.

Avalon Cat Cartoons said...

Awwwww! LOVE IT! Too cute!

Unknown said...

It's been so long since mum let us on da computer, weez having Catsparella withdraw! Great article.

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