Blurb: In Tokyo – one of the world’s largest megacities – a stray cat is wending her way through the back alleys. And, with each detour, she brushes up against the seemingly disparate lives of the city-dwellers, connecting them in unexpected ways.
But the city is changing. As it does, it pushes her to the margins where she chances upon a series of apparent strangers – from a homeless man squatting in an abandoned hotel, to a shut-in hermit afraid to leave his house, to a convenience store worker searching for love. The cat orbits Tokyo’s denizens, drawing them ever closer.
Initially a series of short stories, or vignettes, of the streets of Tokyo and those that walk (or drive) them, The Cat and the City slowly comes together to make a coherent whole: an ode to Japan from one who clearly loves the country, but also looks at it through an outsider’s eyes and doesn’t fail to see its oddities and blemishes alongside its more endearing features.
Therefore, we see poetry and kindness, art and affection, but also porn, shame, guilt, violence, jealousy and regret. There are different formats used to break up the individual snapshots into distinct styles – a story within the story, case notes, a manga strip – and some connecting motifs that run through the content: the titular cat; a pair of green eyes; a girl with a tattoo; the city itself, as almost a character in its own right.
In addition to the symbolic connections and setting of each segment, there are other connective threads tying the disparate stories together, which the alert reader will enjoy spotting as they go along. Some of the characters are lovers, relatives, friends or colleagues, whilst others merely pass each other in the streets, or share the space of a cafe, bar or taxi ride. These chance encounters and fateful crossings knit the narrative together, from snapshots of a city and culture, into an immerse virtual tour of the same; the reader walks the streets of Tokyo along with that elusive, mysterious cat, and sees the beauty despite/because of/in contrast to those seedier elements that form part of any big city (and cannot be cleared no matter how many ‘clean street’ initiatives come and go).
This book is ideal for anyone looking for a taste of Tokyo life, from an insider – and outsider – perspective, and who likes stories that are stylistically artful, but rawly honest in content.
It had been the cat that first led Ohashi to the empty hotel ten months ago, when he’d been lost in the city, looking for somewhere to sleep. Ohashi had been shivering under a bridge on a freezing night when the little cat had licked him on the hand, looked him in the eye and then walked on a few paces before stopping to wait for the old man to follow. The hotel had closed many years ago, and no one had bothered with it since. Another victim of the burst bubble economy – too much supply and not enough demand. If he’d told the story to anyone, they wouldn’t have believed him, but the cat had saved his life.
– Nick Bradley, The Cat and the City
The Cat and the City is available on Amazon right now.