Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Ultra-popular cat beds made from rice straw

This is the time of year when farmers in Sekikawa Village in Niigata Prefecture get busy weaving one of their most popular local products: cat beds (neko chigura).

Winter tends to be a slow time for farmers—and a time when cats seek warm places to sleep. Way back in 1980, someone in Sekikawa put two and two together and came up with an idea to fill an unmet need and make productive use of the winter downtime: They would take a traditional baby basket, hand-woven with rice straw (which rice farmers have a lot of on hand), and modify it for the village's mice-catching members.

(I suspect that the inventor was inspired by heat-seeking felines napping in the baby baskets the way the cat in the photo below is doing.)

The hand-woven baskets turned out to be a smash hit with cats and their owners, with orders now flooding in from all over Japan. The trouble is, the village's current cohort of 19 weavers can produce only about 500 cat beds a year—not nearly enough to keep up with demand. Consequently, if you want to order one (you can find the contact info here) there's a one-year waiting list.

[Source: Asahi Shinbun. Japanese article here.]

Said the kitty right before he attacked the reporter's legs, "Hey, who said you could take my picture?"

—Mellow Monk

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