It's 22nd Feb today.
And so Chiyomi told me in Japan they refer to this as Nyan Day. Because "2" in Japanese is "Ni". Hmm I'm not sure exactly how it works, but it's a day that I should be celebrating with all my feline buddies in my neighbourhood, which I shall proceed to do so after this post.
Tokyo's a pretty big city for me. It resembles Singapore in a way so much that it frightens me sometimes. That fast paced busy life, salarymen working in the morning, traffic; maybe it's just in the way how the city life works that my mentality rejects. It's a little ironic to say the least, but I miss the military life, maybe just a little.
I first visited Tokyo on a Kawasaki Ninja, rode all the way from Osaka 300+km away, together with my biking partner Yazeid, as we braved through 3 degree winds at 100km/h.
I've been to a lot of cities, but coming from Osaka to Tokyo, it felt like I stepped into another world when that happened. I didn't know what to do in Tokyo, there was no one I know, I had no plans to visit anywhere, and people seems much scarier.
For some reason, even the yakuza in Kansai seems friendlier.
At least, that was my first impression of Tokyo.
Years passed, I flew back and forth Japan/Singapore annually to visit the Matsudas in Kansai, while having the opportunity to visit Tokyo again.
And on one particular trip to Ikebukuro, I was searching for a place to smoke, and found a small park. Yep, a smoking area located in a humble little corner of the park.
But before that could happen, cats suddenly start popping up and appearing in front of me.
That's it, this is one huge cat cafe. Park-sized.
And with that, I found the reason to always go back Tokyo and visit Ikebukuro over and over again.
Here's a photo journal of the cats in Ikebukuro, and the story of 2 similar men who probably don't know each other, but nevertheless joined by their steadfast empathy for cats.
Like all animals, there are always territorial fights and alpha males.
It's the same here too. The cats have a hierarchy system, and territory seems to be separated between the front and back areas.
Apparently the ever so popular cats at the front areas are very high up in the hierarchy, and can roam freely around getting food and warmth from the caretakers.
There are two men in this Ikebukuro park I have huge respect for.
This guy above is one of the two mentioned. I did a post on him in 2014 back when I first saw him, and that was a few years ago. He is still there everyday.
I never really got the chance to speak to him;
Firstly, everytime I tries to approach him, the cats will always tend to form a protective barrier and prevent me from getting near him. It's as if I'm fighting for his affection if I talk to him. Secondly, he looks so happy and peaceful when he is with them. Makes me feel guilty should I approach him.
As explained in the previous line, there are two territorial areas within this park.
The front area is the ever popular cats' areas, where they get their 2-3 regular meals and warmth.
However, there appears to be another section, the back area of this Ikebukuro park.
This location is where the homeless stayed.
Here, it appears that the second tier hierarchy of cats lived. None of the cats here seem to venture much out to the front, as such they are quite unease with our presence.
Majority of the cats actually appears to defend this small territory, it's almost as if they are protecting the homes here. A few of them were somehow a little aggressive when we tried to approach the second man mentioned.
The second man of the story.
We didn't quite catch his name, so I always refer him as "Ojii-san"(which means grandpa). For some reason, he seems to like being called a grandpa, or maybe we reminded him of his grandchildren.
Chiyomi found out that Ojii-san has a house, but he prefers to live in the park. We didn't ask the reason why, there are times when I didn't wanna probe. But looking back at the rest of the photos, I shortly came to realize the reason why.
The reason wasn't why he didn't went back to stay in his house, but his family is in the park. The cats, are his family.
I thought of myself as a cat tamer, with an ability to tame almost at least 70% of the cats I've met so far. But hell, not a single one of the cats there were attracted to me in the least bit. The more I tried to approach them to "sayang" them, the more they want to go to Ojii-san's chair.
Ojii-chan was laughing afterwards, he could tell I was trying too hard in a way; using food, cat calls, nothing works.
What happens next was quite amazing though, he just told the cats that we were friends.
Well, he basically told the cats that we are friends, it's alright yo. And for some reason the words were more effective than any of our cat taming skills.
The only gifts I could present to Ojii-san was my imported cigarettes from Singapore, Lucky Strike, which I think it is still unavailable for sale there. In recent years, because of my love for Seven Stars, he was delighted to accept it too, regardless.
However, he was grinning with joy when we gave him the food we bought for the cats.
It's like as if the hunger of the cats takes priority over his needs.
I never tried to ask, but I believe he's saving every bit from recycling earnings and prioritise buying food for the cats, while he is just surviving purely off the food which volunteers give out every now and then.
So how do we measure empathy on a scale.
Well, I don't know, I'm not a good guy anyway. I'm the definition how a villain should appear in real life.
But to me, these two men of Ikebukuro Park, are the epitomes of how humans should express empathy.
Not at just towards the human level, but with their subconscious act of steadfast love and care for these little ones.
I'd like to term them as the real-life heroes of the Ikebukuro Park cats.
Should this post let you be aware of how sweet strays cats can be, do note that Cat Welfare Society has a ongoing adoption drive once every month, during a weekend.
For dog lovers, there exist this beautiful group of people lead by Dr. Siew Tuck Wah, called SOSD.
They have so much love to give after living in a harsh life outside.
So please adopt, not shop.