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A Twitter user posted a request, asking everyone to show their black cats. Over a thousand people responded, posting pictures of their beloved house panthers. But one of the comments went viral, describing how a teenage emperor in Japan described his black cat in the 9th century, over 1133 years ago.

“Anyway please show me your black cats. Yes, all pets are lovely, but I would especially like to see voidcats right now. Bonus points for belly,” tweeted Shepherd.

Cartoonist and writer Shaenon K. Garrity responded with “first recorded instance of cats in Japan.”

“Here’s the teenage emperor of Japan in the 9th century bragging about his cat, the first recorded instance of cats in Japan,” Garrity tweeted.

Tweet screenshot, Japan, emperor, first cat

Screenshots via Twitter

The text from Emperor Uda’s ancient diary reads: 

“On the 6th Day of the 2nd Month of the First Year of the Kampo era. Taking a moment of my free time, I wish to express my joy of the cat. It arrived by boat as a gift to the late Emperor, received from the hands of Minamoto no Kuwashi.

The color of the fur is peerless. None could find the words to describe it, although one said it was reminiscent of the deepest ink. It has an air about it, similar to Kanno. Its length is 5 sun, and its height is 6 sun. I affixed a bow about its neck, but it did not remain for long.

In rebellion, it narrows its eyes and extends its needles. It shows its back.

When it lies down, it curls in a circle like a coin. You cannot see its feet. It’s as if it were circular Bi disk. When it stands, its cry expresses profound loneliness, like a black dragon floating above the clouds.

By nature, it likes to stalk birds. It lowers its head and works its tail. It can extend its spine to raise its height by at least 2 sun. Its color allows it to disappear at night. I am convinced it is superior to all other cats.”

Mazikeen, Maz, black kitten via Cole and Marmalade

Mazikeen via Facebook, Cole and Marmalade

A Poetic Description of a Black Cat by Emperor Uda in Japan

Another translation says that Emperor Uda praised the cat in the most poetic manner:

“Other cats are a light black color, but this cat is dark black like a crow and very much resembles the Chinese dog ‘Blackie.'”

“My cat is a foot and a half in length and about six inches in height. When he curls up, he is very small, looking like a black millet berry, but when he stretches out, he is long, resembling a drawn bow. The pupils of his eyes sparkle, dazzlingly bright like shiny needles flashing with light, while the points of his ears stick straight up, unwaveringly, looking like the bowl of a spoon. When he crouches, he becomes a ball without feet, resembling a round jade taken from the depths of a cave. My cat moves silently, making not a single sound, like a black dragon about the clouds.”

Emperor Udo of Japan

Emperor Uda via Wikimedia Commons 

“By nature, he has a preference for Taoist-style health practices and instinctively follows the “five bird regimen.” He always keeps his head and tail low against the ground. But when he arches his back, he extends some two feet in height. His fur is lustrous, perhaps on account of his Taoist health practices. He is good at catching mice at night, better at it than other cats.

The former Emperor enjoyed the cat for several days and then gave him to me. I have cared for him now for five years. Every morning, I give him milk gruel. It is not simply that I am impressed by the cat’s many talents; I have felt particularly keen to lavish the utmost care upon him; however insignificant such a creature may really be, because he was given to me by the former Emperor. I once said to the cat, ‘You possess the forces of yin and yang and have a body that is the way it should be.” 

Maz and Marmalade

Mazikeen and Marmalade meeting via Facebook, Cole and Marmalade

“I suspect that in your heart, you may even know all about me! The cat heaved a sigh, raised his head, and stared fixedly at my face, seeming so choked with emotion, his heart so full of feeling, that he could not say a thing in reply.”

Sleeping cat by Kōno Bairei (1844-1895) via Rawpixel Ltd, Flickr. Illustration from Bairei Gakan by Kōno Bairei. (CC BY 4.0). Japan, Japanese

Sleeping cat by Kōno Bairei (1844-1895) via Rawpixel Ltd,  Flickr. Illustration from Bairei Gakan by Kōno Bairei. (CC BY 4.0). 

Cat Lovers Haven’t Changed

In response, people summed it up nicely:

“This is how all cat owners sound,” tweeted one person.

“I affixed a bow to its neck, but it did not remain for long” owning a cat has never changed,” tweeted another.

“Cat owners literally haven’t changed in centuries, it seems,” tweeted one person.

“I am convinced my cat is superior to all other cats” Same,” said another person.

Mazikeen, Maz, black kitten, Cole and Marmalade

Mazikeen via Facebook, Cole and Marmalade

First Confirmed Record of a Cat in Japan

Indeed, this is the first confirmed record of a cat in Japan, demonstrating they may have arrived as priceless gifts to emperors. However, no one knows for certain.

“No one knows exactly when and how they got there. The ‘best guess’ is that they traveled down the silk road from Egypt to China and Korea, and then across the water. They came either as ratters guarding precious Buddhist sutras written on vellum, or as expensive gifts traded between emperors to curry favor. Most likely both of these things happened at different times,” Smithsonian wrote.

Supernatural Bakeneko cat via Wikimedia Commons, Japan

Supernatural Bakeneko cat via Wikimedia Commons

Only in the 12th century did Japan’s first-recorded reports of supernatural cats take shape. Today, cats remain a big part of Japanese culture. There’s even a Temple dedicated to cats called the Meow Meow Temple in Kyoto. 

For centuries, people around the world have known that black cats are wonderful and bring good luck.

Featured image: Emperor Uda via Wikimedia Commons with black cat Mazikeen via Facebook, Cole and Marmalade

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