• Shona McCarthy

Feeling Catty? Japan's Monster Cat Festival, Kargurazaka

Updated: Mar 16

You may be a cat lover, you might be a cat hater, but either way, the Kagurazaka Bakeneko Parade is guaranteed to have you transfixed. This year, it is due to be held on the 10th of October, not far from Shinjuku, Tokyo. Though you may wish to check the official website closer to the date, since it doesn't seem to be set in stone.

But what is a bakeneko exactly? I decided to see if I could find a good definition:

In fact, in Japan there are multiple classic horror movies based around this concept:

Last year the festival was largely moved online due to covid. There are hopes that this year it won't be necessary. But still, as they would usually do, festival participants dressed up either as cat monsters or rat monsters and sent photographs of themselves to the festival organizers, presumably to be published in public. If you would like to see pictures related to the festival, you can put #ばけねず into the search field on Twitter. But I think the videos of the festival are so fascinating to watch!

It seems like it is taken as seriously as any matsuri. But there is something about dressing up as a cat yokai that seems to appeal to many people, and so many come each year, creatively dressed in different cat monster costumes.

However, rat culture is also well represented, as shown by this rat parade float:

You can see it in use in the footage below:

In fact, on the official Bakeneko Festival Youtube channel, you can see festival videos dating back to 2013! Some of the videos are even instructional guides on how to do cat festival dances so people can participate! What fun!

It seems that a lot of people find dressing up in kimono at the cat festival fun. Which is understandable, since kimono can look great with so many different styles. You might want to check out my online store, where I try to make kimono culture more accessible to normal people:

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