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Fleeting Wonders: Cat Day and Ninja Day Collide in Japan

A Japanese cat celebrates both days at once.

A Japanese cat celebrates both days at once. (Photo: Takashi Hososhima/Flickr)

Was yesterday boring for you? You may want to move to Japan. There, February 22nd is National Cat Day, a time for pranks, cat photos, and furry friends. But in some parts of Japan, February 22nd is also Ninja Day, meaning, depending on where you are, you could choose which to celebrate.

Both days are rooted in the fact that, in Japanese, 2/22 is pronounced “ni ni ni,” similar to “nyan nyan nyan,” or the Japanese version of “meow meow meow.” “Ni” is also, of course, the first two letters of “ninja,” a more-than-adequate excuse for Ninja Day.

Cat Day began nearly 30 years ago, when, according to Mental Floss, the Japanese Pet Food Association convened a National Cat Day Committee to choose a day for feline recognition. The first Cat Day, held in 1987, featured “more than 400 cat lovers” and “several dozen cats” getting together for a three-and-a-half hour ceremony, the Associated Press reported at the time.

“Cats are more than just pets,” said one participant. “They radiate serenity and are essential for the well-being of humans.”

These days, much of Cat Day happens on social media, where devotees post pictures of themselves pranking their cats, BBC News reports. Others might dress up in whiskered outfits, or avail themselves of the various cat-themed confections cooked up by local businesses. 

Meanwhile, with many in Japan feasting on pointy-eared rice balls and pranking their pets, others are busy celebrating ninjas. In Koka City, February 22nd is Ninja Day, an opportunity to honor the area’s rich ninja history and culture. According to Japan Today, city officials will spend the work week dressed “in their best medieval assassin clothes,” and will hand out paper throwing stars to visitors.

Asahi Shimbum reports that a Koka City ancestral investigation team has also been sniffing out modern descendants of the famed assassins, and recently honored a 73-year-old local farmer with a ceremony after discovering his ancestors were ninjas.

The celebration has spread around the country under the auspices of the Ninja Day Executive Committee, which, according to its website, aims “to gather all ninja fans around the world and make a worldwide trend day where everyone can celebrate Ninja!”

Youngsters dressed as ninjas in Koka City in 2010.

Youngsters dressed as ninjas in Koka City in 2010. (Photo: go.biwako/Flickr)

This year, celebrations include children’s activities, an educational ninja symposium, samurai sword fighting lessons, and the “shuriken roulette challenge” that appears to involve chucking a throwing star at a roulette wheel to win free sushi. 

Sounds, honestly, like something a cat would be great at.

Every day, we track down a fleeting wonder—something amazing that’s only happening right now. Have a tip for us? Tell us about it! Send your temporary miracles to cara@atlasobscura.com.