The night I spent in Tokyo was punctuated by the sound of a hideously unhappy cat right outside my window (Joe and Mayuko did not report hearing said cat). Here in Matsumoto I've counted about a dozen feral cats in Mrs. Ishii's neighborhood. Their playground is underneath the field of grapevine (I've never seen grapes this way - elevated so that the top is almost taller than a person and looks thick enough to walk on, the grapes hang below)

A few mornings ago two cats were serenading Mrs. Ishii and myself as we ate breakfast. They unabashedly sat on the stoop to her sliding glass doors and yowled. Not because they wanted in or food or attention - just because they could, I think. After a particularly insistent howl Mrs. Ishii got up and openned the door and began to talk to them in a kind voice. I imagine her saying something like "What's going on? What's so important that you have to interrupt my breakfast?" One of the cats was back today basking in the sun all morning, genuinely not having any place better to be.

The other day, Mr. Takahashi was driving me back to Mrs. Ishii's and there was a grey cat in the middle of the street. It seemed totally unconcerned that there was a 43 year-old Nissan-Prince Skyline hurling towards it. As if playing a game of chicken, it waited until the last possible moment to move. Mr. T, stonefaced, just ignored the animal.

Most people point to their strong personalities as the reason they like or dislike cats. In a domestic cat, it would be called independence. In a feral cat, it seems to manifest itself as a sense of entitlement that other wildlife don't seem to share. A racoon will usually run away from you, and even pigeons will do their little waddle-walks to get out of your way.

I have yet to determine what the residents think of these creatures that live amongst them. People must have domesticated cats here, they have dogs - but this is not what you would call a rural area, and I don't know any Americans (who don't live on farms) who would abide by these animals.