Home > Life in Japan > Features
  print button email button

Sunday, Feb. 4, 2001


Life is too short, even when you have nine!

I used to think I knew how to bury a dead cat. Then I learned the Japanese way.

It happened yesterday, when I noticed a strange cat lying next to the house. It was as if the cat had been chasing a bird when suddenly, the bird took revenge by casting an Evil Bird Spell that froze the cat in mid-air. Then the cat fell over in that position.

Perhaps he's just stunned, I thought, trying to be optimistic.

When I realized the spell wasn't wearing off, I went to my next-door neighbor's house and said, "Ueda-san, what do I do with a dead cat?"

Ueda-san didn't miss a beat, and went straight to work as if she had buried a few hundred cats this year already. "Get some gloves." she instructed. I came back with rubber gloves. "No, no," she said, "throw-away gloves." I came back with cotton throw-away gloves. "No, no." She shook her head and disappeared into her house.

I wondered if she had special "dead cat" gloves approved by the Society for Dead Cats and "inspected by Don." But she came out wearing clear plastic gloves. I decided I'd better be the assistant in this operation.

"Next, we need a cardboard box," she said. I brought a box from the house. "Don't you think that's rather large?" she said. I told her I didn't have anything else.

"How about an old towel?" she suggested. She was either responding to an innate Japanese sense or she had gotten an A in Dead Cats 101.

I ran into the house and brought out a pink, flower-print towel I had always disliked.

"No, no," she said and disappeared again into her house. I pictured Ueda-san going through her impeccable towel closet: beach towels, bath towels, "sento" towels, free post-office towels, pre-packaged "omiage" towels, pre-packaged omiage towels with quaint, French sayings, hand towels, dead-cat towels. She emerged with a white towel sheared on both ends.

I couldn't stand the thought of picking up the fuzzy kitty and arranging him properly on his death towel. But of course, Ueda-san would do it for me.

She picked up the cat, "He's stiff!"

Now, I'm sorry, but when a cat is that hard, it's not a cat anymore. A cat should not be stiff. In the same way a cat should not be soluble, a cat should not be stiff.

Thus, having lost all the favorable qualities of catness, we now had an almost two-dimensional, cat-shaped placard. This put me at ease. I would not be burying a cat, just something shaped like a cat.

Ueda-san wrapped the towel like a kimono, leaving the head and whiskers visible.

I didn't have a shovel but Ueda-san didn't ask. She disappeared into her gardening shed. Perhaps, I thought, she is going to retrieve a Panasonic "Guraibu Digga" that, when switched to the "cat" setting, cuts out a grave in the shape of a cat, complete with imprints for head, whiskers and tail. Turn on the motor and it sucks out the soil and empties it into a neat cone-like pile next to the hole.

I was relieved when, instead, she came out brandishing a shovel.

Together, we carried the placard cat up into the mountain. We dug and dug, through stones and tree roots, until finally we had cleared a large enough hole.

Then, with the tenderness of a grandmother who has buried far too many cats in her lifetime, Ueda-san laid the kitty down in the hole. We covered the grave and marked it with a flat stone and a frond. I gave a little prayer. The rest was up to the Mountain God.

Our placard cat might not be a cat anymore, but he will always be a kitty.

Visit the Japan Lite home page at www.amychavez.com or e-mail comments to: amychavez@mailexcite.com

Back to Top

About us |  Work for us |  Contact us |  Privacy policy |  Link policy |  Registration FAQ
Advertise in japantimes.co.jp.
This site has been optimized for modern browsers. Please make sure that Javascript is enabled in your browser's preferences.
The Japan Times Ltd. All rights reserved.