Limerence; An Ikebukuro Story / by brasscollective

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.

 As winter approaches, cats seeking warmth find solace in snuggling to humans.

As winter approaches, cats seeking warmth find solace in snuggling to humans.

 Stray cats also have a higher chance of dying during winter, as compared to summer countries' cats. Average lifespan is around 4-5 years for a cat in Tokyo.

Stray cats also have a higher chance of dying during winter, as compared to summer countries' cats. Average lifespan is around 4-5 years for a cat in Tokyo.

 The caretakers appear to be very familiar with each other, making a small community of around 5-6 people.

The caretakers appear to be very familiar with each other, making a small community of around 5-6 people.

 The hugely popular calico of the park, finding warmth in a caretaker's embrace.

The hugely popular calico of the park, finding warmth in a caretaker's embrace.

 From the likes of it, the cat in the centre is the oldest around here.

From the likes of it, the cat in the centre is the oldest around here.

 Unable to find warmth in the lady caretaker's arms(occupied by the calico), these two cats chose to hide in her blankets.

Unable to find warmth in the lady caretaker's arms(occupied by the calico), these two cats chose to hide in her blankets.

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 As winter comes, the cats find warmth in snuggling up to humans, particularly their caretakers.

As winter comes, the cats find warmth in snuggling up to humans, particularly their caretakers.

 Some, such as this black cat, unable to find a human to snuggle to.

Some, such as this black cat, unable to find a human to snuggle to.

 Sometimes, the cats fight for affection from the caretakers. This calico/tabby was hissing at another cat for approaching it's comfort zone.

Sometimes, the cats fight for affection from the caretakers. This calico/tabby was hissing at another cat for approaching it's comfort zone.

 Some of the cats are less affectionate, or maybe they are afraid to offend the cats higher up in the hierarchy.

Some of the cats are less affectionate, or maybe they are afraid to offend the cats higher up in the hierarchy.

 Cats waiting for their turn to snuggle in blankets.

Cats waiting for their turn to snuggle in blankets.

 Two tabbies waiting for their turn to eat.

Two tabbies waiting for their turn to eat.

 Feeding time by one of the caretakers. 

Feeding time by one of the caretakers. 

 The mixture of wet and dry food for their diet.

The mixture of wet and dry food for their diet.

 The first man of the story.

The first man of the story.

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 "territory".

The second "territory".

 The slight hostility of the guard cat.

The slight hostility of the guard cat.

 More guards.

More guards.

 The tension in the cats as we approached closer.

The tension in the cats as we approached closer.

 The presumed alpha male of the area.

The presumed alpha male of the area.

 After a few treats and patting, he was all friendly afterwards. Cats for you, I guess.

After a few treats and patting, he was all friendly afterwards. Cats for you, I guess.

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.

 Ojii-san's living area.

Ojii-san's living area.

 Ojii-san's living tent in the park. 

Ojii-san's living tent in the park. 

 One of the most quiet cats in the area, suddenly just jumping to Ojii-san's lap for warmth.

One of the most quiet cats in the area, suddenly just jumping to Ojii-san's lap for warmth.

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.

 First attempt to approach them failed horribly. They formed some defensive barrier like this afterwards.

First attempt to approach them failed horribly. They formed some defensive barrier like this afterwards.

 This is what happens after our second attempt.

This is what happens after our second attempt.

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. 

"大丈夫よ、友達です!”

 

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.

 Chiyomi's successful run at taming the guard cats.

Chiyomi's successful run at taming the guard cats.

 There was this shy beautiful cat that lived deeper in the tentage area. 

There was this shy beautiful cat that lived deeper in the tentage area. 

 Ojii-san said, this cat had a lot of emotional scars of being abandoned. It was crying and afraid of everything the first time it appeared.

Ojii-san said, this cat had a lot of emotional scars of being abandoned. It was crying and afraid of everything the first time it appeared.

 It appears to be a Persian/Scottish Fold mix.

It appears to be a Persian/Scottish Fold mix.

 The back tentage where the Persian/Scottish Fold was, visible in the back.

The back tentage where the Persian/Scottish Fold was, visible in the back.

 To Ojii-san, the cats probably are closer to him than his family is. Or maybe there's another story behind it.

To Ojii-san, the cats probably are closer to him than his family is. Or maybe there's another story behind it.

 But to the cats, Ojii-san is their world.

But to the cats, Ojii-san is their world.

 

 

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.

 

 He never once show his eyes to the camera, always hiding behind his baseball cap. It was probably so he can get used to the dark living conditions easier.

He never once show his eyes to the camera, always hiding behind his baseball cap. It was probably so he can get used to the dark living conditions easier.


 Tabbies munching on dry food left behind after caretakers' departure.

Tabbies munching on dry food left behind after caretakers' departure.

 The cats are at their most vulnerable after their caretakers leave, as sometimes the extreme winter nights can freeze them to death with no warm place to run to.

The cats are at their most vulnerable after their caretakers leave, as sometimes the extreme winter nights can freeze them to death with no warm place to run to.

 

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.

 

 

猫の日。