The Kagurazaka Bakeneko Festival - Become A Cat And Join The Parade

Halloween has become very popular in Japan in the recent years. In October, you can buy cute Halloween souvenirs everywhere, eat adorable Halloween desserts and join costume parades.

In this article we’ll introduce you to the Kagurazaka Bakeneko Festival in Tokyo. This unique parade is all about cats and parading the street as your own version of a spooky, or cute, feline.
Bakeneko - What are they?
Writers odd-eyed cat "Grace". Picture courtesy of Japan Cat Network

Since ancient times, cultures all over the world believed cats have mystical powers and Japan is no different. The Bakeneko is one of Japans yokai (supernatural creatures). It literally translates to “demon cat” or “changed cat” and refers to a supernatural being in a cat form.

The stories of the bakeneko differ greatly. Some stories say they are demons that turned into house cats to either protect or bewitch the person they are living with. Other stories say that some older house cats turn into a bakeneko to take over human bodies or speak human language.

Picture from Japanese Encyclopedia: Maneki Neko (Beckoning Cat)

Did you know that the popular maneki neko(beckoning cat) is actually a kind of bakeneko? The Catbus from Studio Ghibli's movie "My Neighbor Totoro" is another example of a bakeneko.
The Kagurazaka Bakeneko Festival - I Am a Cat
Picture courtesy of Kagurazaka Bakeneko Festival

The Bakeneko Festival is held mid-October every year since 2010 in Kagurazaka. Kagurazaka is a part of Tokyo's popular Shinjuku ward. It is a cat-themed Halloween parade normally held about two weeks before Halloween.

The reason why a cat-themed parade is held in Kagurazaka is that the author of the famous Japanese novel “I Am a Cat”, Natsume Soseki, lived in this area. What better place to combine Japanese cat yokai with the ghost and demons of Halloween?

Picture courtesy of Kagurazaka Bakeneko Festival

Everyone is invited to join no matter what age, gender or nationality. The staff will try to help you out if in simple English if you have any questions. Even if you normally dislike cats you are invited to join the parade because bakeneko are not normal cats after all. 
The Kagurazaka Bakeneko Festival Schedule 2019
In 2019, the Kagurazaka Bakeneko Festival will be held on Sunday, October the 13th. Starting and meeting point the senior citizen welfare facility Kagurazaka close to Kagurazaka Station.

Please note that inn the case of rain the festival might be canceled!
9:30 Until Sold Out - Buy a Cat Make-up Ticket
Picture courtesy of Kagurazaka Bakeneko Festival

If you want someone to do your cat make-up for you please buy a ticket for it at the reception. Make-up for adults costs 1000 yen per person and for children 500 yen. Accessories such as cat ears will cost extra.

Please note that the tickets sell out fast. It is advised to be there as early as possible if you want to take advantage of this service.
10:00 Until 13:50 - Buy a Ticket for the Bakeneko Festival
The participation in the parade costs 500 yen for adults and is free for children. After you paid your participation fee you will receive a wristband with a bell, please don’t take it off before the festival is over.

The reception also provides lockers to hold your bags or extra clothes. They cost between 500 and 1000 yen depending on the size. Be aware that the number of lockers is very limited. It’s best if you can come in costume instead of changing there and using a locker.
14:00 Until 15:00 - The Bakeneko Parade
Picture courtesy of Kagurazaka Bakeneko Festival

In order to participate in the parade please make sure to be at the senior citizen welfare facility Kagurazaka between 13:45 and 14:00. Don’t forget to pay your participation fee and wear your wristband beforehand.

Picture courtesy of Kagurazaka Bakeneko Festival

At 14:00 you will be lead down Kagurazaka main street to show off your purr-feat cat costumes and make feline friends. A dance performance will be held around 14:30 when the parade reaches Iidabashi Station. After this, everyone will slowly parade back to the start point. The Parade officially ends around 15:00.
From 15:00 - Anya Odori Dance
Picture courtesy of Kagurazaka Bakeneko Festival

Anya Otori is meant as a wordplay on the popular Awa Odori Dance. “Nya” is the sound of a cats “meow” in Japanese, so instead of Awa Odori it is A-nya Odori. The cat dance will be taught in the Kagurazaka shopping area. At the end of the one-hour dance lesson, everyone will be able to dance the Anya Odori together. 

Picture courtesy of Kagurazaka Bakeneko Festival

One of the most famous bakeneko stories is that of a cat, dancing like a human with a towel on it's head. It was even depicted by the famous cat loving ukiyo-e (Japanese wood print) artist Utagawa Kuniyoshi. Why don't try this bakeneko dance yourself? 
17:00 - Even Cat Demons Have to Return Home
Picture courtesy of Kagurazaka Bakeneko Festival

The event ends at 17:00. Please make sure to gather your belongings from the lockers at this time. 

Picture coutesy of Kagurazaka Bakeneko Festival

Of course you are welcome to stay and explore the surrounding Kagurazaka area. Surely there will be some other cats, or bakeneko, strolling around as well.
Special Bakeneko Festival Booths, Goods and Services
There are many different things to explore and discover during the Kagurazaka Bakeneko Festival. Let’s have a look.
1. Cat Make-up Corner
Picture courtesy of Kagurazaka Bakeneko Festival

As mentioned before you can get your cat make-up done by the staff at the festival. Even if you come already transformed it might be fun watching other people turning into cats.
2. Cat Kimono or Yukata Rental
Picture courtesy of Kagurazaka Bakeneko Festival

Do you want to combine being a cat with wearing a kimono or yukata? Then you should sign up for a visit at the special cat kimono rental booth on the official website.

For 2500 yen you will be provided with a kimono or yukata and an obi (traditional kimono belt) of your choice. All items will feature some kind of cat print. Please be aware that there are no footwear or accessories included in this offer, so please bring your own.

It is advised that you come between 10:00 and 12:00. If you come after 12:00 you will be charged an extra fee of 500 yen. Also, the earlier you come, the bigger the selection will be.
3. Cat Goods and Snacks
Picture courtesy of Kagurazaka Bakeneko Festival

You can find many different booths around the festival area carrying cat related goods. Besides bags and souvenirs you can even buy bread and snacks in all kinds of cat shapes.

Picture courtesy of Kagurazaka Bakeneko Festival

How about walking around and discovering all of them?
4. Ring Ring Service
Picture courtesy of Kagurazaka Bakeneko Festival

If you show your cat bell bracelet you can get different free or discounted services at some of the surrounding shops. Besides discounts you can even get free presents.

Make sure to check the participating shops beforehand on the official site (only Japanese) and ring your cat bell when you get there.
5. Find the Bakeneko and Get Candy
Picture courtesy of Kagurazaka Bakeneko Festival

The Bakeneko Festivals version of trick or treat. Search for the bakeneko in disguise with the treats. If you discover them they will give you some candy

Unfortunately, this bakeneko hunting game is only for children but if you ask nicely, maybe they will give some candy to your inner child as well.
6. Street Performances
All kinds of street performances will be held in the area from 10:00 until 17:00. Surely you can discover a performer you like if you have some free time between showing off your awesome cat costume.
Become a Bakeneko for a Day
Festivals, the Awa Odori dance, and ghost stories are a traditional part of the Japanese summer while Halloween greets the fall. The Kagurazaka Bakeneko Festival combines both seasons and it has cats, so can it get any better?

In many traditional stories, the bakeneko will change into a human but on this particular day, it will be the other way around. Why not join and see if you can meet a real bakeneko in disguise?

In cooperation with the Kagurazaka Bakeneko Festival
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