In Nikko, at the entrance to the Okusha Inner Shrine, the tomb of Ieyasu Tokugawa from the Toshougu Shrine, you’ll find a small sculpture designated as national treasure.
Named in Japanese Nemuri neko 「眠猫」 - nemuri means “sleeping” but also “peaceful” and neko means “cat", the sculpture is widely known as the “Sleeping cat", but the other translation has a more powerful meaning: because on the other side of the gate there is another sculpture representing a sparrow, it is said that the sparrow will be eaten when the cat will wake-up. But the “peaceful” interpretation says that the two animals coexisting signifies that the chaos has disappeared and that there is peace in the world.
But why is Nemuri neko so famous? The famous sculptor and architect Hidari Jingoro was fascinated by cats and spent 8 months studying and sculpting cat statues, because he wanted to represent the animal as realistic as possible. And the result was worthy of the effort, his sleeping cat was a source of inspiration for many generations of artists:
Yesterday’s Japan Photo: