Edo Cats: Tails of Old Tokyo
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The hardcover version is 96 pages and measures 5 inches by 5 inches.
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When Tokugawa Ieyasu was appointed shogun of Japan in 1603, the fortunes of a sleepy fishing village called Edo were forever changed. Ieyasu transformed Edo — today known as Tokyo — into the bustling capital of his feudal government. By the end of the century, the town’s population had swollen to nearly 1 million — a number that didn’t even include the cats.
And by all accounts, Edo was positively crawling with cats.
"Edo Cats" introduces us to that era through a series of enchanting ukiyo-e (woodblock print) illustrations — all drawn from a feline perspective. Travel back in time and discover the fascinating faces, places, tales and tails of Old Tokyo.
Hardcover. 96 pages. Full Color.
Edo Cats: A Tour of Historical Tokyo
in 9 Lives (more or less)
Before we can trot into the streets of Edo, we need to cover some of the basics. The Edo Period was between 1603 and 1868, following centuries of upheaval. The new shogun, Tokugawa Ieyasu, established his headquarters in Edo, which is known today as Tokyo. The city grew into the center of entertainment, prosperity, and prestige for all of Japan. And the neighborhood cats, or neko, had a front perch view of it all.
Shitamachi is the hub of the city, where people work, live, play, and especially shop! At the end of the day, many residents treat themselves to snacks sold from yatai street carts, before making their way to the yuya public bath for a relaxing soak. What other wonders of downtown Edo would you like to see? Check out the book for ideas!
Next, let’s get a look at what a traditional jukyo, or home, in Edo is like. Don’t forget to take off your shoes as you enter. Then settle around the traditional andon lantern with your family to go over the events of the day. You can learn more about the creature comforts of home on our extended tour in Edo Cats!
There are so many traditional games to get your paws on, we don’t even know where to begin! But let us tell you about maritsuki and hanetsuki. Maritsuki requires an ear for music and dexterity. Hanetsuki is similar to badminton and is popular around the holidays. Think you’d be any good? Check back in after reading about all the other fun games we play in Edo!
A tour of Edo wouldn’t be complete without seeing our some of our fiercest defenders come to be. That’s why I’ve brought you to see the katanakaji, or swordsmiths, at work! This sacred art helps the samurai to rise to the occasion. But some warriors use other weapons. Take, for example, the onna-bugeisha! They’re the powerful women fighters who wield the naginata, on the battlefield.
And whom are the warriors defending? The royalty of course. Oh, and look—here comes a royal procession now. In Edo, we live in a bafuku, or feudal, society. Our emperor appoints a shogun, who then designates the feudal lords. These regional officers are the ones who oversee the samurai and bureaucrats who defend and govern the town. So take a knee as they pass—it’s a custom scripted in the hierarchy!
We're going to take a quick detour outside of Edo to see the yamabushi, a group of mountain mystics who devote their lives to ascetic Buddhism outside the hustle and bustle of the city. The yamabushi are a talented bunch, and if you look closely you can see some showing off their martial arts skills and can hear their stories of serving other aristo-cats as far back as the 13th century.
To finish off the tour, let’s party! You’ve chosen the perfect day to come to Edo, because today there’s a traditional matsuri festival under way! Maybe we’ll even see some odori dance performances, but if not you can join me on the Edo Cats book tour and we’ll probably stumble upon one.
Thanks for coming on this journey with me! We’re concluding in front of my humble abode, marked by this mon, or gate. I encourage you to read about all the other wonders we explore in Edo Cats. It’s a purr-fect way to experience the history of the Japanese renaissance!