Janice Hall Heck

Finding hope in a chaotic world…

Z is for Zoomorphic Architecture: CATS Immortalized

Final day in the A to Z Challenge.

Zoomorphism means giving animal characteristics to deities (mythology), persons (literature), arts (statues, graphics), and architecture (buildings), generally in three dimensional representation.

The cats have been meowing and meowing and meowing, trying to get me to write more about them. They wanted to take over this blog post themselves *shudder*, but I promised to get going on a “cat post” just to keep them quiet.

Coming up: Three zoomorphic cat-shaped buildings. Meow.

cat shrine Japan1. Cat Island, Japan: Cat-Shaped Camping Facilities.

First, let’s go to a tiny, ferry-accessible-only island off the coast of northern Japan, Tashirojima. Nicknamed “Cat Island,” this island has a cat population larger than its elderly human population. In fact, the cat shrines (10) and cat monuments (51) almost outnumber the people. Feeding cats, so the story goes, brings great wealth and good fortune. (Dogs are not allowed on this island!)

This island was severely damaged in the 2011 Great Tohoku Earthquake and the tsunami that followed. People and cats escaped harm, but the destruction of buildings and fishing vessels was rampant.

Cats on this island seem to be precocious. In the past, when the silk industry thrived there, these furry critter-catchers performed a great service by eliminating pesky gourmet-silk-worm-eating mice. And not only did these furry felines excel at rodent catching, they also predicted the weather for fisherman and announced (by their behavior) the arrival of schools of fish in nearby waters. No wonder these cats were so loved.

One day, one of these beloved island protectors was accidently killed, and the grieving fishermen built a small rock shrine in its memory. That was the beginning of this cat love affair. Now there is an inn (Hamaya) on the island that welcomes guests looking for the island’s most famous cat, Jack. “Tare Mini Jack” (Droopy-Eared Jack) became famous after a movie featured his story. (Click on the link above to see some cat movie clips.)

The sign above right recounts the tale of the first cat rock monument. Notice the “Hello Kitty.” He is saying, “Welcome.” (Did you notice the Hello Kitty on my blog header? I got him on a trip to Japan a number of years ago.)

This once-dying island now has a whole new life, including zoomorphic camping facilities pictured below.

cat buildings

cat building Japan

Photos of camping facilities by Zooming Travel of Japan

2. Nekozuka, Japan Cat-Shaped Bus Shelter

cat shaped building

In southern Japan, you can find this cat-shaped bus shelter. Supposedly an old priest and his faithful cat lived in an ancient temple in Saifukuji, Japan. Unfortunately, a large rat also lived in the temple, and he often bit the priest. In desperation, the priest pleaded with his cat and its friends to capture and kill the rat. Reinforcement cats flooded in from surrounding towns to form a vigilante committee to take care of this humongous, bothersome priest-biter. The battle broke out after midnight; screeching, hissing, and grunts of the fierce encounter could be heard throughout the night for miles around.

The next morning, the priest discovered the now-dead rat as well as the bodies of all the volunteer vigilantes who had helped to rid the temple of the malevolent menace. The priest buried the dead cats at this site, and later the community built a cat-shaped bus shelter to commemorate the cat-astrophe.

Photo by pokoroto, Brian G. Kennedy.

3. Kitty Kindergarten, Karlsruhe, Germanyzoomorphic cat

What a nifty place for kids to learn and play. This kitty-shaped kindergarten was designed by Tomi Ungerer and artchitect Ayla Suzan Yondel.

What fun to go to recess by sliding down the cat’s tail to the playground from the second floor of the building.  Children enter the building through the cat’s mouth and eat lunch in the cat’s tummy dining room. Photo image from Milk Magazine.

The Last Meow.

Do you hear that racket? Meow. Meow. Meow. Meow. Meow. Meow.

That’s Zoey, the Cool Cat, owned by photographer, Russel Ray. Zoey heard it was Z-Day and wanted see what all the fuss was about. When he found out it was Z-Day, he wanted in. Anyway, here’s his stamp of approval (used with permission) on this blog post. What higher honor could I possibly get? Thanks, Zoey.  (See more pictures of Zoey in Meow link above.) Meow for now. =<^;^>=

Cat im-zoey-the-cool-cat-and-i-approve-this-post59

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27 thoughts on “Z is for Zoomorphic Architecture: CATS Immortalized

  1. Zoomorphic! Now I’ve learned a new word. How cool! Love the cat buildings! 🙂

  2. lanitaboyd on said:

    Congratulations on completing the month! you’ve done a wonderful job. Lanita

    Lanita Bradley Boyd 859.441.4999 http://lanitaboyd.com/musings/

    Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart. Psalm 37:4

  3. This is great! In fact I would go as far as to say that this post is the cat’s pajama’s.

  4. Congrats on completing the challenge!! 🙂

  5. This is an absolutely fabulous post, and I can see why Zoey the Cool Cat approved it, though I was speechless (typeless??) for a moment when I saw that great honor bestowed! Russel and Zoey are amazing! But you have lived up to their quality stamp. I especially love the bus stop and the…um…legend attached. Your telling of the tale is as colorful as the story itself. Thanks for an excellent Z! As I have time, I’ll be checking out some of your earlier A to Z’s that I missed.

  6. Pingback: L is for List of A to Z Challenge Posts, 2013, by Janice Heck | JaniceHeck

  7. Ah ha! So this is where Zoey the Cool Cat sneaked off to……….lol

  8. Omigosh, but these are brilliant! My favorite has to be the Kitty Kindergarten! Purr-fection, of course.

    And then there’s, Zoey. Alas, to be so cool. Humans simply can’t compete.

  9. I was going to say “only in Japan” until the German kindergarten… heh! My devilcat approves of said zoomorphic buildings, and also that humans are stupid if they didn’t know what that word meant!

    (My favourite is the camping ground!)

  10. We seem to have lots of travel photos of one of us with cats. It is a substitute for our own when we’re travelling.

    • I look for cats when I travel too, and always take photos. I have even been known to buy cat refrigerator magnets, cat post cards, cat note cards, cat… you get the picture. ={^.^}=

  11. I wish I’d seen your little cat sign-off before I posted my guest post from Sir Springer, our cat who returned after 7 weeks, to our great delight. (It’s on my family history blog if you want to look).

  12. Pingback: Cat Heaven Island in Japan–Photos | JaniceHeck

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