|image courtesy of publishers|
This gorgeous little book is full of creatures which will give you new respect for your own household demons. After all, if they've been around long enough, they might grow a second tail and start walking upright, becoming fierce and frightening magical spirits known as nekomata. Even scarier are the corpse-eating cat monsters known as kasha, and the Cat Witch of Okabe who lured travelers to their deaths. Other, more benign creatures are found here too, such as the gotoku neko, who wears a trivet for a hat and likes to keep the fire stoked, and our friend the maneki neko, the inviting cat who's somehow gained a reputation for bringing luck. Not least is the giant prehistoric Iriomote Great Mountain Cat, rumored but never proven to be stalking the highlands of a remote Japanese island, as illustrated below by Kyosai c. 1860-70:
|image believed PD; any omission unintentional|
Seiseiyousaiga, Kawanabe Kyosai
Davisson's scholarship is detailed and engagingly readable, and includes period stories and folklore as well as a wealth of full-color illustrations. While it makes a wonderful gift, it's also a solid and useful resource for anyone who takes their cat folklore seriously.
Curator's note: According to the publishers, this is the first of an upcoming series on Japan's supernatural animals.