Puuurfect present: 83-yr-old Japanese man handcrafts cat beds from rice straw

Tadayoshi Motomi weaves a “Neko Chigura” cat bed at his home in Miyoshi, Tokushima Prefecture on December 18, 2021. (Mainichi / Naoki Inoue)

MIYOSHI, Tokushima – An 83-year-old man from western Japan has been making rice straw cat beds for about 25 years.

Tadayoshi Motomi, a resident of Miyoshi, Tokushima Prefecture, self-taught “Neko Chigura” cat beds as a hobby, but gradually became captivated and started growing his own rice, the source straw, using as few pesticides as possible. He now sells his products to order, and they are popular with cat lovers.

Making Neko Chigura cat beds is a popular craft originally created in Niigata and Nagano Prefectures. They are shaped like “kamakura” igloo snow huts and have a side opening for the animal to enter and exit. Motomi’s wife Sumako, 81, who read about the beds in a newspaper, suggested that she make it a hobby at home. So, he ordered one from Nagano and studied how to make it by looking at it, and also designed his own weaving tools.

Initially Motomi only gave them to his acquaintance, but they were so well received because “cats always went there” that he started selling them about three or four years ago and the orders went downhill. started pouring in. The products are also sold to Kazurabashi Yumebutai, a tourist facility located near the famous Iya-no-Kazurabashi Bridge in the same city, and since their introduction on the Internet, inquiries have also been received from overseas. It makes up to about 20 beds per year.

Motomi lives in the middle of a mountain range that rises next to the Yoshino River, where Oboke Gorge is located, one of the most scenic spots in Tokushima Prefecture. He grows straw in the rice terraces around his house. Motomi only uses pesticides of natural origin once, in consideration of cat safety, and all weeding is done by hand. The harvested rice cobs are left to dry naturally in the sun for about 40 days, and he patiently weaves the straw one by one, paying close attention to the shape of the entrance.

“Making them is fun. Before, I could make one in three and a half days, but now that I’m older, it takes me about a week,” Motomi said with a smile.

His hometown is one of the prefecture’s top tourist spots, but the population is rapidly declining. The area where he lives had more than 40 households, but today it has about a third.

Motomi started promoting his hobby of making cat beds in part because he wanted to “liven up the depopulation area as much as possible.”

“I am encouraged by the joy of the people who buy them. I want to keep making them as long as I am healthy,” he said.

To order a Neko Chigura cat bed, visit the Kagejoya website at http://kagejoya.com/ or call 0883-84-1527 (in Japanese). Three sizes are generally available, with prices ranging from 24,000 yen (around $ 210) for the large one with a diameter of around 40 centimeters to 18,000 yen (around $ 157) for the small one with a diameter of 30 cm. , but it can also accept the requests of other sizes.

(Japanese original by Naoki Inoue, Tokushima Bureau)

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