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Japanese people have had a long relationship with cats. More than 1000 years ago, people in the upper class were already living with cats. Common people also started having pet cats at home several hundred years ago and Japanese people have been involved with cats in a variety of ways since then. There are shrines that worship cats as gods across Japan and cats have also played a part in folk beliefs through the ages. The popular Japanese cat figurine maneki-neko (招き猫, “beckoning cat”) is believed to bring good blessings.

The extent to which Japanese people have been involved with cats is evident from the volume of artworks that depict cats as the main subject. In the Edo period (1603-1868), Ukiyoe virtuosos Hiroshige Utagawa and Kuniyoshi Utagawa painted cats, and in the Meiji period (1868-1912), the great novelist Soseki Natsume wrote the novel “I Am a Cat”, which became a famous masterpiece of Japanese literature. Also nowadays you can find examples, such as the famous character “Hello Kitty” the cute anthropomorphic cat, and “Krocchi” a stray cat character that has recently started to become popular. There are specialised cat photographers and cat cafés where you can play with them. Within photography the cat plays the role of beloved pet to famous photographers, such as Chiro for Nobuyoshi Araki and Sasuke for Masahisa Fukase have done. 

At the initiative of cat lover and author of books on Japanese contemporary art and photography, Sophie Cavaliero, the Neko Project was initiated. The project team, consisting of a number of people involved in photography and Japanese art, invited Japanese photographers to participate in a photography project on the theme of cats. Since IBASHO promotes Japanese photography and houses two gallery cats, Mocca and Chino, we were included in the project team.

This open invitation has resulted in over 80 photographers submitting their work. With this rich material a cat photobook is published and a number of exhibitions in France and in Belgium at IBASHO, are held. 
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In a large group exhibition on the cat theme IBASHO will exhibit works by photographers already connected to IBASHO, such as Mika Horie, Hiromi Kakimoto, Yoshinori Mizutani, Naoyuki Ogino, Kumi Oguro and Shinji Otani. Also works by other - established or sometimes lesser known - photographers, among others Koji Onaka, Takahiko Nakafuji, Toshiko Hashimoto and Yuko Fukagawa, will be presented. Lastly, IBASHO will include two works and a photo book by Masahisa Fukase of his beloved Sasuke and Nobuyoshi Araki's book (first edition) 'Chiro, My Love' can be found in our book shop, as well as other photo books on cats.

The book on the Neko Project published by Iki will also be available at IBASHO for 35 Euro.