Sporadic Happiness (in Japan!)

(formerly) updated every Wednesday

#36 Neko Ramen!

NEKO RAMEN  猫ラーメン by Sonishi Kenji.

This is the most adorable manga EVER.  I exaggerate (maybe?) but for me it was an amazing find (that I stumbled upon in an internet cafe!  See last week’s post).  Especially since I’m not normally a fan of manga in the first place; this one really roped me in.

It is, at it’s heart, a 4-koma manga, sometimes called yonkoma or 4-cell manga, which is a traditional form of Japanese comics.  The panels read top to bottom, right to left, and has a certain flow in terms of the story, such that there is set up, further progression, and the main gag comes at the last panel.  Neko Ramen also deviates from this style from time to time to tell slightly longer stories.

The basic premise of Neko Ramen is a cat running a Ramen shop all by himself.  He does a somewhat a poor job of it, but is an incredibly enthusiastic go-getter who is always thinking up crazy schemes to be more unique or to gain more popularity.  He only has one main customer, Mr. Tanaka (the most generic last name in Japan – like having a Mr. Smith).  The majority of the manga is dialogues between the cat owner (affectionately known as Taisho 大将, or General) and his sole customer.  Other characters are brought in too though, like the people or animals Taisho hires, or his family members, especially his father who is a cat model.  You get to learn more about Taisho and his past, and how he got to where he is today, as well as of course witnessing lots of antics that happen in his ramen shop.  Many of the gags, unsurprisingly, play up the fact that Taisho is a cat, and an adorable if somewhat prideful cat at that, and it makes for a very compelling character.  I adore him ^.^

The manga consists of 6 volumes in Japanese.  I bought volumes 1 and 2 while in Japan.  I wanted more but…things.  Must be responsible with things (and not having too much of them).

My mouth dropped open just now, as I just searched on amazon.com to see if they’d have it as an import, to find that the first 4 volumes have been translated into English!!!  And for incredibly reasonable prices; there’s used versions available as well, even cheaper.  Check ’em out!

Neko Ramen Volume 1: Hey! Order Up!

Neko Ramen, Vol. 2

Neko Ramen, Vol. 3

Neko Ramen, Vol. 4

And, for those not interested in spending money (or acquiring more things) or in reading manga, there’s also been an anime made!  It consists of 12 very short (2 and 1/2 minutes each) episodes, and they can all pretty easily be found online, with English subtitles and all.  The anime uses the exact jokes from the manga and presents them in pretty rapid-fire form, adding voice overs obviously for Taisho and Mr. Tanaka and adding in sound effects.  I rather like the way the anime is presented; it seems very faithful to the manga and sticks closely to its style.

Here’s a link to the first episode:

The person who uploaded that one has all 12 episodes, so check them out!

My life has been made better having Neko Ramen in it; I hope you get some enjoyment out of it as well!  They do say that laughter is one of the best ways to release stress and feel good.  I am indebted to Taisho and his antics for helping me through my last few weeks in Japan.  Thank you Taisho!!!

Or perhaps I should be saying, Thank you Kenji Sonishi!  (the Author).

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#23 Stray Island Cats

The islands we live on in Japan has a LOT of stray cats.

Most of them are skittish and don’t care too much for humans.

Some humans do feed them though, and in a way “adopt” them by continuing to feed them, such that those cats constantly hang around their house, but they aren’t let inside, such as this guy:

Other times people do take strays into their homes and treat them as one of their own.

More often than not though, strays just wander the streets. They’re not something you can always expect to see, but whenever you see one (or more!), it can be a treat.

Why? My boyfriend and I are pet deprived. I’ve never owned a cat before, but he’s had cats all his life, and being away from them in Japan has made him cat-specifically deprived.

On his island there’s an orange cat named Chibi that follows its adopted owner around town, and is somewhat old and docile and welcoming of attention. One time it even followed its “owner” to the port and went all the way up to the boat and stood amongst other humans, which we found surprising.

This is a younger, Chibi look-alike that my boyfriend is petting. Maybe a Chibi Jr.?

Often on my island, cats gather around the candied french fry factory, where no doubt they are being fed scraps. I’ve found a cat or two around there amenable to pets.

While stray cats are numerous, ones that welcome pets (petting) are still in the minority, so whenever you find one, it’s a glorious day.

A few weeks ago, I was walking to school one morning, over this sort of mountain pass where it’s fairly secluded from houses and people. Right smack in the middle of the narrow one-lane road, was a grey cat, sitting pretty. It was looking in my direction and seemed to be waiting for me. As I approached, it ran up to me and started cooing around my legs and pushing its head into my hand and acting like a normal house cat. It’s fur was so soft too. It seemed to be a young adult – no longer a kitten, but not quite fully grown. It also had really interesting, prettily colored markings.

I was smitten with the cat, and wanted to take it home, of course. After petting it for an inordinate amount of time (I was on my way to work, after all), I said goodbye and started walking onward.

But then it followed me, at first at my side (I was walking slowly – I didn’t want to leave it either) and then trailing behind me. Two ladies passed me going the other direction and commented that it looked like I was taking it for a walk!

After the ladies passed, I stooped down to pet it some more. I couldn’t resist.

Then it noticed another cat in the distance.

That other cat came our way, and came near me for pets too.

By this time I was almost late for work, and saw this as my opportunity to take my leave since it would have been sad to leave the first kitty all by itself. But with the comforting presence of a friend/sibling/mate I reluctantly left the two behind.

It really made my day though! Aren’t they gorgeous?

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