Bakeneko Parade in Kagurazaka, Tokyo
Japan is host to the most delightful festivals ever, and even the supernaturally scary bakeneko have their day! This isn’t an official holiday—you won’t find Bakeneko parades elsewhere in the country—but this festival gives ordinary people a chance to cut loose and indulge their love of dressing up for something besides Halloween. What could be more fun than becoming an angry ghost cat for a day?
But really appreciating what spirit these cheerful Tokyoites are possessed by means digging into some lore that borders on hilarious.
First of all, cat-obsession in Japan is no new thing. The bakeneko (insane cats) have been around for hundreds of years, and the legends grew up around things that cats actually do that were considered creepy and unnatural by the populace: their fur can give off sparks if you pet them (hello static electricity), they can walk without making a sound, and they lick up strange substances that wouldn’t appeal to any normal creature. Famously, blood. (Although many people actually feared their cats had turned into bakeneko when they caught them licking the lamp oil, not twigging to the fact that it used to be made from fish, which tastes a lot better to cats than it does to humans.)
Lucky for me, they are so famous that they are also sold in capsule toy vending machines…
But don’t confuse them with nekomata, which are also supernatural ghost cats, but they become yōkai by getting really old and turning into spirits that torment humans who have been mean to them.
Bakeneko parade info:
When: It’s usually scheduled for a Sunday in mid-October. Check online for this year’s dates by searching “Kagurazaka bakeneko festival”
Where: Kagurazaka Street—go out the West Exit of Iidabashi Station and follow the crowd
Admission: Free for spectators, parade participants pay a small fee to enter (details on their official website in Japanese)
I used the Japan Navigation phone app to get to Kagurazaka, and you can easily use it to get there from where you’re staying, with your actual date and preferred arrival time. Here’s where to get the app and how to use it.
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