Rise of the Neko Lit: Feline Fiction Takes Over Japanese Literature Scene

Meow-ving into the Spotlight: Once a niche corner, Japanese novels featuring cats have become a roaring success with international audiences, forming a distinct subgenre known as “neko lit” (neko meaning “cat” in Japanese).

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The trend, according to veteran translator Louise Heal Kawai, began gaining traction in the mid-2010s. Back then, publishers clamored for works by famed Japanese author Haruki Murakami, known for his dreamlike narratives. Today, however, the focus has shifted – “Now they all want cats,” Kawai says.

This surge in popularity reflects a global fascination with felines. Neko lit offers a diverse range of stories, from heartwarming tales of companionship to fantastical adventures with talking cats. Popular examples include “The Travelling Cat Chronicles” by Hiro Arikawa, where a feline protagonist embarks on a poignant journey, and Natsume Soseki’s classic “I Am a Cat,” a satirical social commentary narrated from a cat’s perspective.

The rise of neko lit isn’t just about cuddly companions. It taps into a broader cultural trend – the growing importance of pets in our lives. As societies experience rapid change, these furry friends often provide solace and a sense of stability. Neko lit allows readers to connect with these themes through a unique lens, offering heartwarming stories and insightful observations on human nature, all through the captivating eyes of a cat.

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