There’s a lot of love for cats in Japan. You might already know about Maneki Neko, the iconic cat statue placed in your entrances for good luck, but this love of cats doesn’t end at figures. It was only inevitable the cutest parts of cats, their ears are tails, would be added to cute people for a double hit of kawaii – and the catgirl was born. This feminine felines trope in anime and games has an origin that’s much older than most people realize.
Many assume the catgirl is a modern idea, yet Japanese artists drew catgirls as far back as 1700s. These first images of catgirls looked like cats that changed into a human-like form, similar to the Khajiit from the Elder Scroll games or the Betelgeusians (Meow) in Space Dandy. The modern depiction of a catgirl, with a young human body and only cat ears on top of the head, was the character Yukibango, from the 1920s. Today these catgirls can be seen everywhere, thanks to nekomimi. If you get the chance, check out one of the Nekomimi cafes in Akihabara, like the cafe Farris and Mayuri work, from Steins;Gate. Even our own Megumi has a pairs of nekomimi cat ears she likes to use when cosplaying.
While searching for that perfect nekomimi cafe you might find yourself walking through Tokyo’s Ikebukuro district and stumble upon the Sunshine City. As often the case of English in Japan, the Sunshine City isn’t a city at all. The heart of Sunshine City is Sunshine 60, a sixty-story skyscraper that was the pride of Japan in the late 1978, and at the time of its completion it was the tallest building in Asia, praised as a major accomplishment in Japanese engineering. But the story of Sunshine City has a dark side the locals still tell. The building is believed to be haunted by the ghosts of the old Sugamo Prison that used to stand on the same ground, where WWII war criminals were incarcerated and executed. That’s quite a throw from what a name like “Sunshine” implies.
That dark past aside, Sunshine City is a fun place with many attractions everyone can enjoy. The first floor has a stage that hosts JPOP Idol concerts, where you have a chance to see some singers before they become famous. Upstairs is a haunted house inside Namjatown, a cat-themed amusement park (more cats!) run by Namco. And the most visited attraction is the aquarium, the only place in Tokyo where you can see “flying” penguins.
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