Japan’s big brands go cat crazy for Neko No Hi

by Chisato Tanaka

Staff Writer

On Feb. 22, which is Neko No Hi (Cat Day) in Japan, some major Japanese companies have entered into the spirit of the celebration and surprised the public by changing their corporate names to capture the heart of cat-loving potential customers (presumably just for the day)!

For example, Sharp Corp., a major Japanese electronics maker, temporarily changed its company name to “Nyarp” on its Twitter account.

The number 2 is pronounced “ni” in Japanese, which can be associated with “nya,” the Japanese onomatopoeia for feline mewing. So the 22nd day of February — the second month — can be read as “nya nya nya” in Japanese, which is also the reason the Japan Pet Food Association officially designated Feb. 22 as Cat Day.

Sharp also added cat ears to its logo on its account, saying one of followers gave the graphic to the company.

Tanita Corp., a maker of weight and body fat scales, also changed its name to Tanyata on the social media service and placed a gray-colored cat at the center of the company’s logo.

Tanita urged followers to take and share photos of cats on the firm’s scale and pass them along to friends. Among the enthusiastic respondents was @s_nio, who calls himself a cat-poet and posted a picture of a cat on a scale — its weight apparently reading 222 grams on the device.

The list of “cat-loving” firms goes on: Pine Co., which is well-known for its pine-flavored candy, renamed its main product from Pain Ame (Pine Candy) to Pain Nyame; toy maker Takara Tomy changed its name to Takara Tomya; and food and snack company Imuraya called itself to Imunyaya on Wednesday.

The play on words even spread to more serious classical music circles: The Japan Philharmonic Orchestra changed its Twitter account name to Nyapan Philharmonic Orchestra, Sendai Philharmonic Orchestra to Sendai Philharmonya Orchestra, and classic music concert organizer Japan Arts to Japan Nyarts.

According to an annual survey by the Japan Pet Food Association, the number of cat owners surpassed that of dog owners in Japan last year for the first time since the survey began in 1994.

The number of pet cats in Japan is estimated at 9,526,000, remaining almost unchanged in recent years, while the number of dogs fell to 8,920,000, down for the first consecutive year, according to the survey.