The focus of this year’s Tokyo International Gift Show is an animal that has become a purring and recurring issue in the news recently: cats.
A variety of cat-themed products ranging from cushions and slippers to bags and saucers seems to be drawing more passionate cat lovers to stores these days.
The organizers of this year’s biannual trade show at Tokyo Big Sight, the 82nd held so far, say the highlights include a booth selling only cat-theme items, and another dedicated to traditional Japanese fabrics and materials— the first time such vendors have attended the event.
“Buyers, both from Japan and abroad, are keenly interested in cat merchandise like never before, and the exhibitors as well are always making new products,” said Yuichiro Kawatsu, a spokesman for Business Guide-Sha, Inc. which runs the show.
A record 2,729 exhibitors are at the show, which was expected to draw 200,000 visitors before it closes on Friday.
The previous Gift Show in February drew 194,764 visitors.
Takanori Mae, spokesman for cat merchandise company Neko Publishing Co., says it is attracting more and more customers in their 30s and 40s, both men and women, compared with a younger generation thought more likely to buy cat-themed goods .
“It’s usually cat owners who purchase these products,” said Mae.
“Dog lovers are usually into the particular breed of dog that they own, but people who like cats tends to like them all. I think that’s why cat merchandise is doing so well,” he said, adding that more of the animals are appearing on TV and that the cat goods trend is getting a big boost from magazines.
Islands that are home to large populations of cats, such as Ogijima in Kagawa Prefecture, have recently become tourist spots, and several photo exhibitions on cats have been held nationwide over the past few years.
Another highlight of the show was the preview of the Sozai-Ten (materials exhibition), which will officially debut at the 83rd show next February.
It will exhibit traditional Japanese products such as silk fabrics, washi (traditional handmade paper), cotton textiles that can be used to make craft objects, and Japanese-made ceramics.
“It was usually smaller shops and artists” who attended and purchased these materials, “but we aimed to reach out to businesses in other fields including construction and renovation companies,” said Kawatsu.
One of the exhibitors, Shun Hatta, showed off handmade kumihimo (braided silk strings) made by his Kyoto-based company Showen Kumihimo.
“This exhibition is interesting because what we display could be just raw material, like our kumihimo. Since we are selling raw materials, we could advise on the best way for the product to be used,” he said.
Hatta also said the exhibit is providing a good chance to showcase that the string itself is attractive just itself.
Meanwhile, to support the recovery from the 2016 Kumamoto earthquake, a special section was dedicated to shops and products from Kumamoto Prefecture.
Although the fair is a place for business opportunities and negotiations, local food and merchandise, including soft-toy versions of the prefecture’s famous mascot, Kumamon, were sold on site.
“The best we could do to support the citizens of Kumamoto was to help out with distribution. By featuring local products in a special booth, we hoped we could revitalize the local economy, even if only a little bit,” Kawatsu said.
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