Illustration for article titled Cats Make for Wonderful Japanese Art
Kotaku EastEast is your slice of Asian internet culture, bringing you the latest talking points from Japan, Korea, China and beyond. Tune in every morning from 4am to 8am.

Yes, before there was the internet, there were cats.

According to website Cool Hunting, an upcoming exhibition of cat woodblock prints is coming to New York's Japan Society Gallery. During the Edo Period, cats were a popular subject matter for Japanese artists.

Advertisement

Cats are cute, sure. In Japanese folklore, the animals can bring good luck. But they can also bring harm, with legends that split-tailed cats called neko-mata could stand up and walk, converse with humans, kill humans, and even raise and control the dead!

Felines also appeared in 19th century woodblock prints and drawings to parody human behavior, as gags, or, like today, simply to be cute. Then, there are images of cats that are just that: cats.

Advertisement

Here's a selection of Japanese cat prints and drawings, many of which, no doubt, will appear at the upcoming Japan Society exhibit.

Illustration for article titled Cats Make for Wonderful Japanese Art

[Image via waretadataruwosiru]

Illustration for article titled Cats Make for Wonderful Japanese Art
Advertisement

[Image via Bakumatsu]

In this Utagawa Kuniyoshi print that dates from the early 1840s, cats are used to spell out the Japanese word for "catfish." Yes, cat font is that old.

Advertisement
Illustration for article titled Cats Make for Wonderful Japanese Art

[Image via kannsann]

Illustration for article titled Cats Make for Wonderful Japanese Art
Advertisement

[Image via apgdj]

Illustration for article titled Cats Make for Wonderful Japanese Art
Advertisement

[Image via apgdj]

Kabuki cats!

Illustration for article titled Cats Make for Wonderful Japanese Art
Advertisement

[Image via kannsann]

Illustration for article titled Cats Make for Wonderful Japanese Art
Advertisement

[Image via nekoarena]

Illustration for article titled Cats Make for Wonderful Japanese Art
Advertisement

[Image via AOJC]

Illustration for article titled Cats Make for Wonderful Japanese Art
Advertisement

[Image via rekishijin]

The above Kuniyoshi image is from a kabuki play in which a cat takes the form of a woman. Nice Edo Period nekomimi!

Advertisement
Illustration for article titled Cats Make for Wonderful Japanese Art

[Image via chinton2009]

Illustration for article titled Cats Make for Wonderful Japanese Art
Advertisement

[Image via living-lets]

Illustration for article titled Cats Make for Wonderful Japanese Art
Advertisement

[Image via Japan Society]

Illustration for article titled Cats Make for Wonderful Japanese Art
Advertisement

[Image via apgdj]

This is a "cat dance." The fish on their fans is a nice touch.

Illustration for article titled Cats Make for Wonderful Japanese Art
Advertisement

[Image via apgdj]

Illustration for article titled Cats Make for Wonderful Japanese Art
Advertisement

[Image via Japan Society]

Illustration for article titled Cats Make for Wonderful Japanese Art
Advertisement

[Image via mokodeli]

Illustration for article titled Cats Make for Wonderful Japanese Art
Advertisement

[Image via kannsann]

Illustration for article titled Cats Make for Wonderful Japanese Art
Advertisement

[Image via Japan Society]

These artists would've loved the internet.

"Life of Cats: Selections from the Hiraki Ukiyo-e Collection" opens on Friday.

Top image: apgdj

To contact the author of this post, write to bashcraftATkotaku.com or find him on Twitter @Brian_Ashcraft.

Advertisement

Kotaku East is your slice of Asian internet culture, bringing you the latest talking points from Japan, Korea, China and beyond. Tune in every morning from 4am to 8am.

Share This Story

Get our newsletter