Sep 2018 The Travelling Cat Chronicles


The Travelling Cat Chronicles by Hiro Arikawa

Book Group 1 – September 28, 2018











Nana, the stray cat, landed on his feet.  From home on the bonnet of a silver van in a Tokyo parking lot to the home of Satoru, his life was definitely looking up. In a new ‘international bestseller’ Hiro Arikawa has brought us a delightful example of pet lit. After taking in Nana, who was injured in a car accident, and nursing him back to health, Satoru, the owner of the silver van, sets off across Japan in search of several of his childhood friends with Nana in tow. Nana, meaning seven in Japanese, is so named because his tail is hooked in such a way that it looks like a seven. Sometimes it is hard to tell who is the central character, Nana or Satoru, as the story is told from the point of view of both in alternating chapters. The relationship that develops between them is both gentle and enduring, fulfilling a need in each. As their sojourn progresses Nana learns more of Japan than just Tokyo, experiencing the sea, Mount Fuji, flatlands with swaying fields that mimic the sea, forested hills with red berries, a ferry ride and life in Hokkaido and Sapporo. Regular flashbacks reveal many difficulties in Satoru’s previous life. Their final journey is heartrending.


For our group this was a different type of Japanese novel compared with those we have read in the past, seemingly a lighter story as it opened. Initially several of us felt it was difficult to relate to the characters and their situation. However as the story developed we found ourselves drawn in and carried along. Some of us noted that the translation that seemed very Western centric in places – ‘Whoa!’ or ‘Yada, yada.’ We took delight in Arikawa’s description of nature and the changing scenery as the silver van made its way across Japan. Not all of us are cat lovers, or even animal lovers, but Arikawa’s craft bridged that gap for us. Ultimately we decided this is a book about love and kindness that will find a place in the heart of everyone.


Leslie Muri