A cat can teach.

A cat is the best companion for solace, they say. I know it myself.

A cat is also very honest about feelings. I know this as well. Which is why, I am surprised it took me so long to accept the reading of The Travelling Cat Chronicles by Hiro Arikawa.

Emotions and contact with others are paramount to living a good life. This year, it has been a hard lesson learned. Myself, it is the contact with others. I don’t know what I expected in this instance but it certainly wasn’t Nana’s snappy sarcasm. Also unexpected were the truths of a street cat. Truths, there are in this book and 10 years after the death of my very own streetcat feline companion, it rings out very close to home.

Home is key in this book. Yes, this is the tale of a cat who rides out the entire length of Japan with his hooman (let me have some fun by quoting many artists, illustrators, and writers, who focus on cats). Searching for home is central in ways you might not see at first glance. Searching for what is home is different from what is a home. Satoru knows this. Nana knows this. Everyone they visit only see their own homes, which are materials but even they, at some point, see this too. Home is an emotion. However, it is also physical: people, others make home what it is. It is quite possibly the reasoning behind Nana’s eventual acceptance of Satoru’s offer. A home is no structure unless someone is there to share it with you. However, this lesson is only a back drop.

The Travelling Cat Chronicles, English translation. ©le_chah_errant

Back to the original point of this. Nana. His sarcastic nature is unexpected. His humor too. Or maybe, it’s not really surprising at all given his snark. His opinions though are, I believe, after so many years knowing a street cat, on point. A cat is no house object. Bear with my bluntness, please. A cat is an animal. Animals must hunt, survive the elements, be coarse. Bref. It is a being. Take for example Nana’s feelings about his name. It’s dumb. It’s that simple. The problem is hoomans are what they are. Speaking as one, I know we are not masters of our own fate yet we continue to be stubborn. Lesson learned by all from Satoru to his aunt, passing through every one of Satoru’s friends, whom we meet. Also, may I point out that the only fully level-headed one is Chikako. Satoru, even in his kindness and gentleness, still remains a Man. Stubbornness will out, you can say. We wonder throughout the pages what Satoru wants. Something is up but we only know what Nana knows. It’s not obvious until the end. What Satoru expected to find out at his friends’ is understandable. What he meant by his stays with them, not so much until the end. Why them? you ask in the beginning. Then, we learn the stories. We meet the other cats. We meet the dog. We learn of the shared experiences. And we understand. Perhaps, I thought at the end, he was looking for connection. Not only for Nana, who greatly enjoyed himself at Chikako and Sugi’s, but also for himself, and, finally, for these few choice friends, he visited.

Connection in friendship is very important. We always ask ourselves if we have done enough. If we ffel we haven’t we ask ourselves why. It doesn’t sound extremely clear in the beginning, even in times of struggles. It is not the specific topic here but even war is part of this questioning. Do we do enough for each other? In moments of utter shock, have we done enough or have we done something wrong?

These particular questions come to mind throughout reading The Travelling Cat Chronicles. Hiro Arikawa doesn’t dance around. She charges, she pauses, and then she charges again. Through Nana’s eyes, we appreciate the naiveté of humans (and of ourselves). We feel the warmth of the television. We feel the roughness of the sea. We also understand the sense of independence we all strive for even in struggles. We understand the need to go towards others in times, when we need it the most. And like Satoru, we can feel the pain when we feel it will not be right. Although in reality, the pain hurts a lot more at times than in these moments. Ignorance sometimes is a crime in the world. However, compared to the current world we live in.

Let us come back to the book. 

The Travelling Cat Chronicles is about something more simple. What’s most important here is Nana’s wisdom. He’s a street cat. From personal experience, I can attest to the fact that that is the best kind of cat you’ll ever find. Why? Because they know. They understand that help is not help and that you are mostly on your own in life. Your journey through is your own. However, they will also teach you that lessons, hard lessons, must be learned if you wish to be another being, not necessarily better, but bigger.

Something our world has a hard time grasping and coming to terms with. We need to be bigger people. Not just better. Bigger. Only then can we proceed and march forward to justice or simply better fulfilling lives.

A little extra from the archives. This was my very own gentle street cat. Photo circa 1990s.

9 Comments Add yours

  1. paulkayaian says:

    hmmmm poignant…personal and hence heartfelt…and true.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you for sharing this! Chairman Meow was a barncat as a kitten but he has most definitely come into his own to the Trying-To-Take-Over-The-World kitty he now is today. I have learned from him as well – mostly that petting is on his terms…Keep well! 🙏

    Liked by 1 person

    1. beachah says:

      That sounds like one fabulous cat! Thank you for sharing your story. 🤗

      Like

      1. He is a funny little kitty and sometimes appears on the blog, including writing a post from time to time (the cat butt magnets just need photos and then they are ready to go!) https://rakupottery.ca/tag/cat/

        Liked by 1 person

      2. beachah says:

        Oh he’s a beauty!

        Like

      3. Oh how he knows it too lol

        Liked by 1 person

      4. beachah says:

        Hehe ❤️ It’s always like that!

        Like

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