Skip to content

Seasonal Secret SEP-OCT 2021

Bakeneko Parade in Kagurazaka, Tokyo

A parade of people dressed up as angry ghost cats? Yes, please!

😸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?

People dressed up as crazy ghost cats in the Bakeneko Parade in Kagurazaka
As you can see, this festival isn’t just for your usual crop of semi-pro cosplayers, but that just makes it even more unpredictable and delightful
People dressed up as crazy ghost cats in the Bakeneko Parade in Kagurazaka
At the bakeneko parade, everyone can cut loose!
People dressed up as crazy ghost cats in the Bakeneko Parade in Kagurazaka
His & hers is a thing
Someone dressed up in crazy ghost cat mask and wig in the Bakeneko Parade in Kagurazaka
Along with some insanely great takes on traditional masks, with a nod to characters (and wigs) from traditional Noh drama
Someone dressed up in crazy ghost cat mask and wig in the Bakeneko Parade in Kagurazaka
This one is a take on priestesses of the sort usually found attending fox parades
Someone dressed up in crazy ghost cat mask in the Bakeneko Parade in Kagurazaka
And this one is my all-time favorite—she was wearing an excellent traditional-style mask, but totally dressed in goth-princess style kimono, with all the bells and whistles
People dressed up as crazy ghost cat ninja and oiran in the Bakeneko Parade in Kagurazaka
There are a fair share of other gorgeous interpretations too, though, including feline oiran and ninja
Man in crazy ghost cat skull mask in the Bakeneko Parade in Kagurazaka
And this scary one is a reminder that bakeneko are among the traditional Japanese things that go bump in the night
Lolita cosplayer dressed up as crazy ghost cat in the Bakeneko Parade in Kagurazaka
There are no small number of recognizable cosplay denizens and participants in creative kimonos
Crazy ghost cat balloon mask in the Bakeneko Parade in Kagurazaka
As well as some with costumes made of unexpected materials
Someone dressed up in a Catbus costume in the Bakeneko Parade in Kagurazaka
No cat-themed parade would be complete without a Catbus…
Someone dressed up as a purple anime cat in the Bakeneko Parade in Kagurazaka
…but I’ve been searching all the anime and mange websites for this excellent character with no luck—anybody know? Comment, please!

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.)

Woodblock print of bakeneko by
Bakeneko are usually depicted as hovering malevolently in the background, suggesting that the ghost cat has taken the form of the troublemaker in the scene, usually a woman (woodblock print by Yoshu Chikanobu)
Woodblock print by Toriyama Sekien featuring bakeneko
But they are also quite often depicted as standing on two legs and dancing around with towels on their heads WHY (woodblock print by Toriyama Sekien)

Lucky for me, they are so famous that they are also sold in capsule toy vending machines…

Angry cat ghost gachapon toys
Why yes, these are my most prized possession WHY DO YOU ASK

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.

Woodblock print by Toriyama Sekien featuring nekomata
You can always spot a nekomata by its two tails (woodblock print by Toriyama Sekien)

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.

Did you enjoy this feature? Subscribe! It’s free.

Know anyone who’s looking for a good summer read?

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 
The Last Tea Bowl Thief was chosen as an Editor’s Pick for Best Mystery, Thriller & Suspense on Amazon

“A fascinating mix of history and mystery.” —Booklist

Jonelle Patrick writes mystery novels set in Tokyo, and blogs at Only In Japan and The Tokyo Guide I Wish I’d Had

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: