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The Travelling Cat Chronicles

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A book that “speak[s] volumes about our need for connection—human, feline or otherwise” (The San Francisco Chronicle), The Travelling Cat Chronicles is a life-affirming anthem to kindness and self-sacrifice that shows how the smallest things can provide the greatest joy—the perfect gift for cat lovers and travellers!

We take journeys to explore exotic new places and to return to the comforts of home, to visit old acquaintances and to make new friends. But the most important journey is the one that shows us how to follow our hearts...

An instant international bestseller and indie bestseller, The Travelling Cat Chronicles has charmed readers around the world. With simple yet descriptive prose, this novel gives voice to Nana the cat and his owner, Satoru, as they take to the road on a journey with no other purpose than to visit three of Satoru's longtime friends. Or so Nana is led to believe...

With his crooked tail—a sign of good fortune—and adventurous spirit, Nana is the perfect companion for the man who took him in as a stray. And as they travel in a silver van across Japan, with its ever-changing scenery and seasons, they will learn the true meaning of courage and gratitude, of loyalty and love.

On New York Post's Required Reading List

ISBN-13: 9780451491336

Media Type: Hardcover

Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group

Publication Date: 10-23-2018

Pages: 288

Product Dimensions: 4.90(w) x 6.30(h) x 1.10(d)

Hiro Arikawa is a renowned author from Tokyo. Her novel The Travelling Cat Chronicles is a bestseller in Japan and is due to be published around the world. Philip Gabriel is a highly experienced translator of Japanese and is best known for his translation work with Haruki Murakami.

Read an Excerpt

***This excerpt is from an advance uncorrected copy proof***
I am a cat. As yet, I have no name. There’s a famous cat in our country who once made this very statement.

I have no clue how great that cat was, but at least when it comes to having a name I got there first. Whether I like my name is another matter, since it glaringly doesn’t fit my gender, me being male and all. I was given it about five years ago – around the time I came of age.

Back then, I used to sleep on the bonnet of a silver van in the parking lot of an apartment building. Why there? Because no one would ever shoo me away. Human beings are basically huge monkeys that walk upright, but they can be pretty full of themselves. They leave their cars exposed to the elements, but a few paw prints on the paintwork and they go ballistic.

At any rate, the bonnet of that silver van was my favourite place to sleep. Even in winter, the sun made it all warm and toasty, the perfect spot for a daytime nap.

I stayed there until spring arrived, which meant I’d survived one whole cycle of seasons. One day, I was lying curled up, having a snooze, when I suddenly sensed a warm, intense gaze upon me. I unglued my eyelids a touch and saw a tall, lanky young man, eyes narrowed, staring down at me as I lay prone.

‘Do you always sleep there?’ he asked.

I suppose so. Do you have a problem with that?

‘You’re really cute, do you know that?’

So they tell me.

‘Is it okay if I stroke you?’

No, thanks. I batted one front paw at him in what I hoped to be a gently threatening way.

‘Aren’t you a stingy one?’ the man said, pulling a face.

Well, how would you like it if you were sleeping and somebody came by and rubbed you all over?

‘I guess you want something in exchange for being stroked?’

Quick on the draw, this one. Quite right. Got to get something in return for having my sleep disturbed. I heard a rustling and popped my head up. The man’s hand had disappeared into a plastic bag.

‘I don't seem to have bought anything cat-suitable.’

No sweat, mate. Feline beggars can't be choosers. That scallop jerky looks tasty.

I sniffed at the package sticking out of the plastic bag and the man, smiling wryly, tapped me on the head with his fingers.

Hey there, let’s not jump the gun.

‘That’s not good for you, cat,’ he said. ‘Plus it’s too spicy.’

Too spicy, says you? Do you think a hungry stray like me gives a ratsmonkey about his health? Getting something into my stomach right this minute – that’s my top priority.

At last, the man liberated a slice of fried chicken from a sandwich, stripping off the batter, laying the flesh on his palm and holding it out to me.

You want me to eat right out of your hand? You think you’ll get all friendly with me by doing that? I’m not that easy. Then again, it’s not often I get to indulge in fresh meat – and it looks kind of succulent – so perhaps a little compromise is in order.

As I chomped down on the chicken, I felt a couple of human fingers slide from under my chin to behind my ears. He scratched me softly. I mean, I’ll permit a human who feeds me to touch me for a second, but this guy was pretty clever about it. If he were to give me a couple more tidbits, scratching under my chin would be up for grabs, too. I rubbed my cheek against his hand.

The man smiled, pulled the meat from the second half of the sandwich, stripped off the batter, and held it out. I wanted to tell him I wouldn’t be impartial to the batter, either. It would fill me up even more.

I let him stroke me properly to repay him for the food, but now it was time to close up shop.

Just as I began to raise a front paw and send him on his way, the man said, ‘Okay, see you later.’

He retrieved his hand and walked off, heading up the stairs of the apartment building.

That’s how we first met. It wasn’t until a little later that he finally gave me my name.

From that moment on, I found crunchy cat food underneath the silver van every night. One human fistful – a full meal for a cat – just behind the rear tyre.

If I was around when the man turned up to leave food, he’d wrest some touch-time from me, but when I wasn’t there he’d humbly leave an offering and disappear.

Sometimes, another cat would beat me to it, or the man would be away and I’d wait in vain till morning for my crunchies. But, by and large, I could count on him for one square meal a day. Humans are quite flighty, so I don't rely on them a hundred per cent. A stray cat’s skill lies in building up a complex web of connections in order to survive on the streets.

Acquaintances who understood each other, that’s what the man and I had become. But when he and I had settled into a comfortable relationship, fate intervened to change everything.

And fate hurt like hell.

I was crossing the road one night when I became suddenly dazzled by a car’s headlights. I was about to dart away when a piercing horn sounded. And that’s when it all went wrong. Startled, I was a split second late in leaping aside, and bang! the car rammed into me and sent me flying.

I wound up in the bushes by the side of the road. The pain that shot through my body was like nothing I’d experienced before. But I was alive.

I cursed as I tried to stand up, and even let out a scream. Oww! Oww! My right hind leg hurt like you wouldn't believe.

I sank to the ground and twisted my upper half to lick the wound, only to find – good Lord! A bone was sticking out!

Bite wounds and cuts I can mostly look after with my tongue, but this was beyond me. Through the wrenching pain, this bone protruding from my leg was making its presence known in no uncertain terms.

What should I do? What can I do?

Somebody, help me! But that was idiotic. Nobody was going to help a stray.

Then I remembered the man who came every night to leave me crunchies.

Maybe he could help. Why this thought came to me, I don’t know – we’d always kept our distance, with occasional stroking time in thanks for his offerings. But it was worth a try.

I set off along the pavement, dragging my right hind leg with the bone jabbing out. Several times my body gave out, as if to say, I can't take it, it’s just too painful.Not one. More. Step.

By the time I reached the silver van, dawn was breaking.

I really couldn’t take another step. This is it, I thought.

I cried out at the top of my lungs.

Oww . . . owwwww!

Again and again I screamed, until my voice finally gave out. It killed me even to call out, to be honest with you.

Just then, I heard someone come down the stairs of the apartment building. When I looked up. I saw it was the man.

‘I thought it was you.’

When he saw me close up, he turned pale.

‘What happened? Were you hit by a car?’

Hate to admit it, but I messed up.

‘Does it hurt? It looks like it.’

Enough of the irritating questions. Have a little pity for a wounded cat, okay?

‘It sounded like you were desperate, the way you were screaming, and it woke me up. You were calling for me, weren’t you, cat?’

Yes, yes, I certainly was! But you took your time getting here.

‘You thought I might be able to help you, didn’t you?’

I guess so, Sherlock. Then the man started sniffing and snuffling. Why was he crying?

‘I’m proud of you, remembering me like that.’

Cats don't cry like humans do. But – somehow – I sort of understood why he was weeping.

So you’ll do something to help, won’t you? I can’t stand the pain much longer.

‘There, there. You’ll be okay, cat.’

The man laid me gently in a cardboard box lined with a fluffy towel and placed me in the front seat of the silver van.

We headed for the vet’s clinic. That’s like the worst place ever for me, so I’d rather not talk about it.

I ended up staying with the man until my wounds healed. He lived alone in his apartment and everything was neat and tidy. He set out a litter tray for me in the changing room beside the bath, and bowls of food and water in the kitchen.

Despite appearances, I’m a pretty intelligent, well-mannered cat, and I worked out how to use the toilet right away and never once soiled the floor. Tell me not to sharpen my claws on certain places, and I refrain. The walls and doorframes were forbidden so I used the furniture and rug for claw-sharpening. I mean, he never specifically mentioned that the furniture and the rug were off limits. (Admittedly, he did look a little put out at first, but I’m the kind of cat who can pick up on things, sniff out what’s absolutely forbidden, and what isn’t. The furniture and the rug weren’t absolutely off limits, is what I’m saying.)

I think it took about two months to get the stitches out and for the bone to heal. During that time, I found out the man’s name. Satoru Miyawaki.

Satoru kept calling me things like ‘You’, or ‘Cat’ or ‘Mr Cat’ ‒ whatever he felt like at the time. Which is understandable, since I didn't have a name at this point.

And even if I had had a name, Satoru didn’t understand my language, so I wouldn't have been able to tell him. It’s kind of inconvenient that humans only understand each other. Did you know that animals are much more multilingual?

Whenever I wanted to go outside, Satoru would frown and try to convince me that I shouldn’t.

‘If you go out, you might never come back. Just be patient, little cat. Wait until you’re completely better. You don't want to have stitches in your leg for the rest of your life, do you?’

By this time, I was able to walk a little, though it still hurt, but seeing how put out Satoru looked, I endured house confinement for those two months, and I figured there were other benefits. It wouldn’t do to be dragging my leg if a rival cat and I got into a scrap.

So I stayed put until my wound was at long last totally healed.

Satoru always used to stop me at the front door with a worried look, but now I stood there, meowing to be let out. Thank you for all you’ve done. I will be forever grateful. I wish you lifelong happiness, even if you never leave me another tidbit beneath that silver van.

Satoru didn't look worried so much as forlorn. The same way he seemed about the furniture and the rug. It’s not totally off limits, but still … That sort of expression.

‘Do you still prefer to live outside?’

Hang on now – enough with the teary face. You look like that, you’ll start making me feel sad that I’m leaving.

And then, out of the blue, ‘Listen, cat, I was wondering if you would become my cat.’

I had never considered this as an option. Being a dyed-in-the-wool stray, the thought of being someone’s pet had never crossed my mind.

My idea was to let him look after me until I recovered, but I’d always planned to leave once my wound was healed. Let me rephrase that. I thought I had to leave.

As long as I was leaving, it would be a lot more dignified to slip out on my own rather than have someone shoo me away. Cats are proud creatures, after all.

If you wanted me to be your pet cat, then, well, you should have said so earlier.

I slipped out of the door that Satoru had reluctantly opened. Then I turned around and gave him a meow.

Come on.

For a human, Satoru had a good intuitive sense of cat language and seemed to understand what I was saying. He looked puzzled for a moment, then followed me outside.

It was a bright, moonlit night, and the town lay still and quiet.

I leapt on to the bonnet of the silver van, thrilled to have regained the ability to jump, and then back on to the ground, where I rolled and scratched for a bit.

A car drove by and my tail shot up, the fear of being hit again ingrained in me now. Before I knew it, I was hiding behind Satoru’s trousered legs, and he was gazing down at me, smiling.

I made one round of the neighbourhood with Satoru before returning to the apartment building. Outside the door of the stairway to the apartment on the second floor, I meowed. Open up.

I looked up at Satoru and saw he was smiling, but again in that tearful way.

‘So you do want to come back, eh, Mr Cat?’

Right. Yeah. So open up.

‘So you’ll be my cat?’

Okay. But sometimes let’s go out for a walk.

And so I became Satoru’s cat.

‘When I was a child, I had a cat that looked just like you.’

Satoru brought a photo album out of the cupboard.

‘See?’

The album was full of photos of a cat. I know what they call people like this. Cat fanatics.

The cat in the photos did indeed resemble me. Both of us had an almost all-white body, the only spots of colour being on our face and tail. Two on our face; our tail black and bent. The only difference was in the angle of our bent tails. The tabby spots on our faces, though, were exactly alike.

‘The two spots on its forehead were angled downwards, like the Chinese character hachi – eight – so I named him Hachi.’

If that’s how he comes up with names, what on earth is he going to choose for me?

After hachi comes kyu – nine. What if he picked that?

‘How about Nana?’

What? He’s subtracting? I didn't see that coming.

‘It hooks in the opposite direction from Hachi, and from the top it looks like nana – the number seven.’

He seemed to be talking about my tail now.

Now wait just a second. Isn't Nana a girl’s name? I’m a full-fledged, hot-blooded male. In what universe does that make sense?

‘You’re okay with that, aren’t you, Nana? It’s a lucky name ‒ Lucky Seven and all that.’

I meowed, and Satoru squinted and tickled me under my chin.

‘Do you like the name?’

Nope! But, well. Asking that while stroking my chin is playing foul. I purred in spite of myself.

‘So you like it. Great.’

I told you already – I do not.

In the end, I missed my chance to undo the mistake (I mean, what’s a cat going to do? The guy was cuddling me the whole time), and that’s how I ended up being Nana.

‘We’ll have to move, won’t we?’

His landlord didn't allow pets in the apartment, but he’d made an exception for me, just until I got back on my feet.

So Satoru moved with me to a new place in the same town. Going to all that trouble to move just for the sake of one cat – well, maybe I shouldn’t say this, being a cat myself, but that was one fired-up cat lover.

And so began our new life together. Satoru was the perfect roommate for a cat, and I was the perfect roommate for a human.

We’ve got along really well, these past five years.

As a cat, I was now in the prime of life, and as Satoru was a little over thirty, I guess he was, too.

One day, Satoru patted my head apologetically.

‘Nana, I’m sorry.’

It’s okay, it’s okay. No worries.

‘I’m really sorry it’s come to this.’

No need to explain. I’m quick on the uptake.

‘I never intended to let you go.’

Life, be it human or feline, doesn't always work out the way you think it will.

If I had to give up living with Satoru, I’d just go back to the way I was five years ago. Back when the bone was sticking out of my leg. If we’d said goodbye and I’d gone back to life on the streets, it would not have been a big deal. I could go back to being a stray tomorrow, no problem.

I didn’t lose anything. Just gained the name Nana, and the five years I’d spent with Satoru.

So don’t look so glum, chum.

Cats just quietly take whatever comes their way.

The only exception so far was the night I broke my leg and thought of Satoru.

‘Well, shall we go?’

It seemed Satoru wanted me to go with him somewhere. He opened the door of my cage and I got in without making a fuss. For the five years I’d lived with him, I’d always been a sensible cat. For instance, even when he took me to my bête noire, the vet, I didn't stir up a racket.

Okay then – let’s go. As Satoru’s roommate, I had been a perfect cat, so I should be the perfect companion on this journey he seemed so intent on making.

My cage in hand, Satoru got into the silver van.

ONE

Kosuke, the husband without a wife

Long time no see.

So began the email.

It was from Satoru Miyawaki, a childhood friend of Kosuke’s who had moved away when he was in elementary school. He had moved around quite a bit after that, but they never completely lost touch, and even now, when they were both past thirty, they were still friends.

Sorry this is out of the blue, but would you be able to take my cat for me?

It was his precious cat, which ‘unavoidable circumstances’ were preventing him from keeping any longer, and he was now looking for someone to take care of it.

What these unavoidable circumstances were, he didn't say.

He attached two photos. A cat with two spots on his forehead forming the character hachi – eight.

‘Whoa!’ Kosuke couldn't help saying. ‘This cat looks exactly like Hachi.’

The cat in the photo looked just like the one Satoru and Kosuke had found that day so many years ago.

He scrolled to a second photo, a close-up of the cat’s tail. A hooked tail like the number seven.

Aren’t cats with hooked tails supposed to bring good fortune? thought Kosuke.

He tried to recall who had told him that. Then he sighed, realizing it had been his wife, who’d gone to live with her parents for a while. Kosuke had no clue when she’d be back.

He was beginning to get the faint sense that maybe she never would.

The ridiculous thought crossed his mind that perhaps if they’d had a cat like this, things might have been different.

With a cat hanging around the house, a cat with a hooked tail to gather in pieces of happiness, maybe they’d be able to live a simpler, more innocent life. Even without any children.

Might be good to have the cat, he was thinking. The cat in the photo was good-looking, a lot like Hachi, with the hooked tail and everything. And he hadn’t seen Satoru for a long time.

A friend asked me to take his cat for him, so what do you think? Kosuke emailed his wife, and she answered: Do whatever you like. A tad cold, he thought, but since she hadn’t replied to a single email since she’d left, it felt good to hear from her, at least.

He began to wonder if his wife, a true cat lover, might actually come home if he took in the cat. Perhaps if he told her he had adopted the cat but didn’t know how to look after it and begged her to help, perhaps she would come back solely out of sympathy for the cat.

No. Dad hates cats, so that won’t work. He caught his own kneejerk reaction; he was worrying, as usual, about what his father might think.

This was exactly why his wife had got fed up with him. Kosuke was the one running the business now, and there was no need to worry about how his dad would feel about things. Yet stillhe did.

So, partly as a reaction against his dad, he threw his name ‒ Kosuke Sawada – into the bowl as a candidate willing to take in his childhood friend’s cat.

Satoru Miyawaki wasted no time coming over to Kosuke’s place, arriving on his day off the following week in his silver van, along with his beloved cat.

When he heard a car engine outside his shop, Kosuke wandered out to find Satoru pulling into the shop’s parking lot.

‘Kosuke! It’s been ages!’

Satoru took his hands off the wheel and waved out of the open driver’s-side window.

‘Just hurry up and park,’ Kosuke urged. He was excited to see Satoru. The guy hadn’t changed at all since he was a kid.

‘You should have parked at the end. It’s easier.’

There were three parking spaces for customers right in front of the shop and Satoru had pulled into the spot furthest from the entrance, where a small shed and piles of boxes made it a tight fit.

‘Ah, is that right?’ Satoru said, scratching his head as he got out of the car. ‘I didn’t want to take up a space in case a customer needed it. Well, it’s done now.’ He took the cat cage from the back seat.

‘Is that Nana?’

‘Yep. I sent you a photo so you could see how his tail is shaped like a seven. Great choice for a name, don’t you think?’

‘I don't know if I’d call it great, exactly … You always choose kind of quirky names … Like Hachi.’

Kosuke ushered them into his living room and tried to get a good look at Nana’s face,