Animal mimicry artist Edoya Nekohachi, 63, is a third-generation Japanese performer who specializes in animal sounds. His precise renditions of hundreds of bird species' songs, as well as frog croaks, dog barks and dolphin whistles have been amusing audiences of all ages for more than 40 years. For his showmanship and flawless impersonations Nekohachi received the 2004 Excellence Award from The Agency for Cultural Affairs. Although animal mimicry was a very popular pastime during the Edo Period (1603-1867), today only a handful of performers keep this unique art form alive. Edoya Nekohachi (The Eight Cats of Edo) and his son, Edoya Koneko (The Kitten of Edo) are two of them. This pair of stage cats meow to their own tune and to the cheering of their fans in traditional Japanese yose theaters.

On stage, as in life, we must create our own world. And if it's attractive, people will want to join it.

The greatest compliment for me is when animals mistake me for one of them. It happens often! Once when I was walking in Nikko, Tochigi Prefecture, I whistled the love call of the male Narcissus Flycatcher, my favorite bird. Almost immediately a female replied and flew right by me. It was love at first sight or, I should say, love at first call. We exchanged a few more songs but she seemed lost and flew away.