I found this a while ago, someone had scanned the book so I typed it up… enjoy :)
(Translated by Alfred Birnbaum)
Of all the cats living in this world, one big old female is my favourite.
This cat, when she’s napping in the sun on the engawa deck-floor on a really hushed afternoon, I like to snuggle up right next to her. The afternoon seems mysteriously vacant, like a big bath that nobody’s used for a long time—everything sounds just a little off from normal. I just lie there beside the cat, feeling myself almost a part of the puss, smelling her fur.
The cat’s fur just soaks up the sun’s warmth like a carpet, revealing to me one of the most beautiful things (very likely) in this life. These countless particles of life coming together to create a part of the great big world, it’s an important lesson in living. Everything here in this one little space has got to be, by the same rule, also inside another greater space. This is something I’m eventually going to find out for myself, someplace else.
I reach out to touch the fluffy soft fur, gently run my hand over the broad nape of the neck, the chill rounded sides of the ears, until finally the cat starts to purr. So nice to hear. At first she’s so quiet I can hardly tell she’s purring at all. Then the purr-purr gets louder, deeper, like a marching band coming closer and closer from far off. Finally, I press my ear to the cat’s body and I can hear a rumbling like the roar of the sea at summer’s end. The side of the cat’s belly rises up, then eases down like bellows with each breath. Up again, then down again.
Though I’m just a little kid, there’s not such a big difference between me and this old she-cat. Differences in size, even in how we think, really count for next to nothing. Whatever the gap, it’s really not so much at all. We just lie there still, two of a single lump. In a pool of afternoon sunlight. No one saying a thing. As if we two were the only ones in the world.
On a hushed afternoon like this, it’s some other special time, a current apart from the time that paces our world, that steals through the cat’s body. We’re on “cat time.”
My tiny kid’s fingers can sense that timeflow in the cat’s fur. Like schools of slender secretive silvery fish, or else like an unscheduled ghost train, destination unknown, all windows sealed tight, time slips through the warm cat-shaped darkness inside a cat, undetected by humankind.
I breathe in, then breathe out in rhythm with the cat’s breathing. Softly, ever so softly—so nobody suspects. If I’m careful, not even cat time can tell I’ve tuned in. That’s the best of all.
The cat puts out her two front paws, pat together as if pushing something out ahead, then rests her big triangular jaw on top and shuts her eyes, all mellowed out. Her long straight white whiskers sometimes twitch as if picking up the aftervibrations of old memories. Her wonderfully long tail curves around her body very chastely. Just looking at that tail, I can tell she knows a thing or two about what’s what.
Over in a corner of the yard, white and pink cosmos are in bloom, so the season must be autumn. There’s music, barely audible, from somewhere far off. A distant piano—somebody’s simple practice piece. And high in the sky, an elongated wisp of cloud. Someone is calling someone. The cosmos, the music, these echoes of many different worlds all exist in cat time. Me and the cat, unknown to anyone, we’re united as one by the hidden workings of cat time.
I loved that cat. That big old hen of a cat.
I was maybe six or seven when I lived together with that cat in an old house near the coast. The cat’s name was Tantsu—after a type of very expensive Chinese carpet. Dense coat of fur, really soft and fluffy, patterned all over and beautiful, so Father gave her that strange name. She never made a sound, she was a smart cat. And I love to touch her more than anything.
She was quite old when, for one reason or another, we got her from someone. She was already close to fifteen I think. Her first owner was a pediatrician, a short man with a moustache. After coming to us, twice she returned to her former home. A distance that would take an adult human more than an hour to travel on foot—no one had a clue how she could possibly remember the way. She was put in a cardboard box, tied onto the back of a bicycle, and pedaled over to us. But the cat just went straight back, without a word (well, obviously), without getting lost, in the course of one night. Crossing over two train lines and a river—I tell you she was one smart cat.
After twice being brought back to our house, always on bicycle the same way, she seemed to get the idea. All right, all right. So this is to be my new home. After that, she never ventured out anywhere. She sat down on her haunches and began a new life. Given the very un-cat-like name “Tantsu”, she became a member of the family and my special friend. Well-behaved and gentle, you cold leave a fish out on a serving tray and she would never ever set paw on it.
Maybe it was because I had no brothers or sisters, but often when I came home from school, it was the cat I’d play with. And I learned so much, so many things important to every living creature, from that cat. No joke, I really and truly learned many lessons from playing with that smart old cat. So that one day when, with no warning, with no farewell, she vanished forever from our sight—she never found her way back—I lost one true link to the world.
The cat had lovely velvet fur. Drinking in the smell of the afternoon sun, shining beautiful gold. That’s why even now, of all the cats living in this world, one big old female is still my favourite.