Caturday felids: New Jalan ads and a nice essay on the domestic cat

Jaran (also Googled as “Jalan”) is a Japanese travel agency that produces  hllarious videos starring a tie-sporting cat as a businessman (the object is to sell vacation/business packages).  I’ve highlighted two of their ads before (here and here), along with explanations by Yokohamamama, our Japanese correspondent.

I have now found several new Jalan ads—four of them concatenated—on YouTube.  They feature not only Nyaran, the big orange-and-white cat, but apparently his son/daughter or an apprentice traveling with him. And. . . . a D-G! They’re doing what I take to be typical Japanese vacation activities: eating, going to a spa, viewing cherry blossoms, and so on:

I love the way the animals carry their suitcases on their collars.

My questions:

1. What the hell kind of dog is that? A baby Akita? It doesn’t look real.
2. What is going on in those ads? Japanese-speaking or Japanese-acquainted readers please explain.


Have a look at a new essay in  Aeon magazine: “If a cat could talk”, by David Wood. It’s a bit discursive (“this pudding has no theme“), but has some nice bits, like these:

Perhaps because we selected cats for their internal contradictions — friendly to us, deadly to the snakes and rodents that threatened our homes — we shaped a creature that escapes our gaze, that doesn’t merely reflect some simple design goal. One way or another, we have licensed a being that displays its ‘otherness’ and flaunts its resistance to human interests. This is part of the common view of cats: we value their independence. From time to time they might want us, but they don’t need us. Dogs, by contrast, are said to be fawning and needy, always eager to please. Dogs confirm us; cats confound us. And in ways that delight us.

. . . Michel de Montaigne, in An Apology for Raymond Sebond (1580), captured this uncertainty eloquently. ‘When I play with my cat,’ he mused, ‘how do I know that she is not playing with me rather than I with her?’ So often cats disturb us even as they enchant us. We stroke them, and they purr. We feel intimately connected to these creatures that seem to have abandoned themselves totally to the pleasures of the moment. Cats seem to have learnt enough of our ways to blend in. And yet, they never assimilate entirely. In a trice, in response to some invisible (to the human mind, at least) cue, they will leap off our lap and re-enter their own space, chasing a shadow.

. . . But the claws through the jeans give the game away. The cat is not exploring the limits of intimacy with a dash of pain, a touch of S&M. He is involuntarily extending his claws into my skin. This is not about ‘us’, it’s about him, and perhaps it always was — the purring, the licking, the pumping. Cats undermine any dream of perfect togetherness. Look into the eyes of a cat for a moment. Your gaze will flicker between recognising another being (without quite being able to situate it), and staring into a void.

There are two nice illustrations as well. First, the cat that owned the odious Jacques Derrida, though I won’t hold it against the cat. But it was a crime to name the cat “Logos.”


Jacques Derrida and his cat, Logos. Photo by Sophie Bassouls/Sygma/Corbis


‘Hold back the talons of your paws/Let me gaze into your beautiful eyes.’ Charles Baudelaire, ‘Le Chat’. Photo by Gallery Stock

h/t: Michael


  1. Marella
    Posted July 27, 2013 at 4:59 am | Permalink

    They are great ads, except for the D-G!

  2. Grania Spingies
    Posted July 27, 2013 at 5:05 am | Permalink

    One wonders what the cats have *in* their suitcases. With cats, one never can tell.

    I am fairly sure the first advert is a typical Hanami festival activity, taken while the cherry blossoms are out in the spring.

  3. Stephen Barnard
    Posted July 27, 2013 at 5:18 am | Permalink

    I think the dog is a Pomeranian with a haircut.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted July 27, 2013 at 5:57 am | Permalink

      Yeah it I think it’s a pomeranian with a haircut too.

      • Stephen Barnard
        Posted July 27, 2013 at 7:19 am | Permalink

        I like dogs, but I find this one almost offensively cute.

        • Posted July 27, 2013 at 7:42 am | Permalink

          One must admit, though, that it is a quintessentially Japanese dog. Erm, d*g. Sorry….


    • ladyatheist
      Posted July 27, 2013 at 9:27 am | Permalink


  4. sgo
    Posted July 27, 2013 at 6:02 am | Permalink

    I looked it up by searching in Japanese and they mention it is a Pomeranian as the two above me say.

    As for the commercial: the first one has them “searching” for spring. I can’t make out if the first word the female voice says is “shishoku” or not; it means sampling food. When they meet the dog they say “Rendez vous?” “It is”. The second part sounds funny in Japanese because you’d normally say “desu ne”, which they changed to “desu nya”; nya is the sound a cat makes in Japanese.

    In the 2nd one they’re at an onsen; the female voice seems to say, “the hotel breakfast is a blessing”. And they seem to recognize the dog, as they say “domo, domo”, which you can use as a kind of greeting (even if it means thank you in principle).

    The last two commercials just feature a song, repeating “mata tabi ni ikou” which means “let’s go on a trip”. The first one also has the line, “if you’re feeling a bit down”, and the second one has “when you’re able to take [some] days off”.

    I like their lunch box in the train, and the “paw” print in their miso soup at 0:20. I now forget the name of the pink-and-white thing, but it’s always/often in there.

    • Posted July 27, 2013 at 8:23 am | Permalink

      It’s neko-shaped kamaboko (fish sausage), a staple of ekiben (station bento).

      • majo
        Posted July 27, 2013 at 9:14 am | Permalink

        Kamaboko – what’s it for? Little flavour, and a texture that isn’t quite like food. It’s always been beyond me, like konyaku.

        This won’t add much to sgo’s rendition, but:

        Advert 1:
        Nyaran: I’m Nyaran.
        [Lantern text: Hot-springs inn]
        Deshi (disciple): I’ve come with my master to look for spring.
        Both: This is spring!
        Nyaran: Mumumu? A new acquaintance?
        Both: Yes, that’s it!

        [Screen text: “This spring’s vacation too.”]

        Advert 2:
        [Noren, the blue hangings over the hot spring, read “Men’s bath”]
        Nyaran: I’m Nyaran.
        Deshi: We got a luxury breakfast in our lodgings.
        Nyaran: One more dip!
        Nyaran (changing rooms after the bath): Aaaah…
        Both: Ah! Nice to see you again…

        [Screen text: “This springs vacation too.”]

        Advert 3:
        [Screen text: The Mountain Chapter]
        [Song already translated above]
        [Screen text: Off on a trip again!]

        Advert 4:
        [Screen text: The Sea Chapter]
        [Same song]
        [Screen text: Off on a trip again!]

        Culturally, I don’t have much to add. There is much reference to traditional Japanese trips, including that little local train. The last two adverts are specifically for summer trips (probably anyone could tell that!) – but the “Mountain Chapter” in particular is full of the kind of reference you’d put in summer greetings cards and so on – the water melon, the wind-chime just above it, the rhinoceros (?) beetle that Japanese children try to collect; or the fireworks displays that are such a big part of summer festivals.

      • sgo
        Posted July 27, 2013 at 9:16 am | Permalink

        Kamaboko, yes, thank you!

        You also see it often/always in ramen and such.

  5. Janice Cornforth
    Posted July 27, 2013 at 6:04 am | Permalink

    From an earlier set of commercials I believe the younger kittah is the son/daughter.
    (I suggest turning the sound down!)

  6. michaeljefisher
    Posted July 27, 2013 at 6:11 am | Permalink

    See じゃらんnet [jalan] facebook page for many, many more pictures of the travelling cat duo & their oddball dog ~ some of them rather delightful. Note there’s “see translation” links throughout, but I don’t think they’re enlightening.

    I assume jalen is a travel/leisure/hotel booking biz

    • michaeljefisher
      Posted July 27, 2013 at 6:23 am | Permalink

      HERE’S the cat duo from when the smaller one was a kitten.

  7. Diana MacPherson
    Posted July 27, 2013 at 6:24 am | Permalink

    The one cat is displeased with the cloth on his/her head at 0.13. The ears are all flat and the eyes are narrow. Poor angry kitty.

    • ladyatheist
      Posted July 27, 2013 at 9:28 am | Permalink

      What is that cloth supposed to be anyway?

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted July 27, 2013 at 9:33 am | Permalink

        jredwood comments (14) that it’s a traditional Japanese thing to put a cloth on the head when taking a public bath.

        Kitty doesn’t like this tradition!

  8. Bric
    Posted July 27, 2013 at 6:55 am | Permalink

    Jalan is an interesting name for a Japanese travel firm; it’s Malay for ‘road’, and ‘jalan jalan’ (that’s how Malay makes plurals) means a journey

  9. Posted July 27, 2013 at 7:00 am | Permalink

    I think Wood is either overthinking things or missing the point.

    For example, he finds it puzzling that, when you’re giving a cat a massage, the cat often responds with extended claws. What he’s missing is basic feline anatomy there; the claws are no different from human fingernails and toenails, and the cats are hugging / holding tight (with their forepaws) and curling their toes (with their hindpaws) exactly the same way a human might in similar circumstances. It’s just that their claws are a lot longer and pointier than ours — but, aside from that, the physiology and psychology are clearly nearly identical.

    And why should it be so strange for a man who gives food to a cat when the cat reciprocates? Has he never bought lunch for a friend one week and the friend gotten the check the next? Granted the palates are a bit different, but the sentiment clearly isn’t.


  10. MartinDH
    Posted July 27, 2013 at 7:23 am | Permalink

    I check for a new post on Yokohamamama’s blog site every couple of months and I go away disappointed…20 months is too long (especially with a sick tanuki cliff hanger).

    I hope that Prof. Coyne can encourage and persuade her to restart her charming “slice of life” blog.

    • Posted July 27, 2013 at 7:29 am | Permalink

      I have tried to get in touch with Amy, but she moved and then she was ill (not seriously) for a while, and then she disappeared. I wish I could find her and persuade her to continue her wonderful website (as well as being our Official Japanese Correspondent).

  11. Posted July 27, 2013 at 8:24 am | Permalink

    It’s both nyanderful and wanwanderful!

  12. DrBrydon
    Posted July 27, 2013 at 8:29 am | Permalink

    “Concatenated”, eh? I see what you did there, Jerry.

  13. M Janello
    Posted July 27, 2013 at 9:01 am | Permalink

    Well, as an antidote to the Derrida picture, here is Igor Stravinsky with a cat:

    and John Cage with a cat:

    Composers seem to like black cats.

    • ladyatheist
      Posted July 27, 2013 at 9:30 am | Permalink

      D-gs are too editorial about music. One of my cocker spaniels howls and barks when I play violin, and both of them hide when I play viola

  14. jredwood
    Posted July 27, 2013 at 9:14 am | Permalink

    “Matatabi” is also Japanese for “catnip,” so there’s some punning going on there–they could be saying, “Let’s go for some catnip.” The first two ads are about spring trips while the latter two are about summer trips, going to the mountains (山 “yama” is in the title) and the sea (海 “umi” is in the title). There are tons of traditional Japanese cultural bits, like watching fireworks in summer, wearing small pieces of cloth on the head when taking a public bath (mostly done by men), or having bottles of green tea and summer mikans in the windows of the train to enjoy while traveling.

    • majo
      Posted July 27, 2013 at 9:39 am | Permalink

      Ah! I knew “matatabi” was a plant too, but I didn’t know about its cat-nip qualities!
      It’s not the plant one would call cat-nip in the US though, looking on Google. I see pictures of cats nibbling sticks there… I could do with some of those for my cat, who rises at 5 o’clock every morning and starts gnawing zombie-like on anything and everything his gums come into contact with (including power cables and fingers).

      • jredwood
        Posted July 27, 2013 at 10:07 am | Permalink

        You’re right, Majo, it’s not catnip. From the way my cats acted when I gave it to them a few years ago, I assumed it was. I now grow the real thing for their druggie pleasure.

  15. ladyatheist
    Posted July 27, 2013 at 9:23 am | Permalink

    Turkey in the Straw? hahaha I wonder what the Japanese words are

  16. Posted July 27, 2013 at 9:30 am | Permalink

    After watching the commercials again, I can’t get the children’s ditty, “Neko fun jatta!” out of my head.

    Best not translate that.

  17. Diane G.
    Posted July 27, 2013 at 1:26 pm | Permalink


  18. Derek
    Posted July 27, 2013 at 4:57 pm | Permalink

    For those desperate for Nyaran wallpaper or screensaver, see
    “Matatabi” (the plant) is silvervine (Actinidia polygama), a member of the genus that includes kiwifruit. According to Wikipedia, it induces a catnip-like response in cats; and my J-E dictionary has “sore wa neko ni matatabi da” as “that’s like giving catnip to a cat”. But “mata tabi” (2 words) means “travel again” and the ad has “matatabi ni ikou” (“let’s travel again”), so I think it’s just a reference to travel and not a catnip reference.
    Youtube has this as the “2013 spring-summer” collection of ads.
    My recollection is that “Turkey in the Straw” has been the theme for all the Nyaran ads since they started several years ago.

  19. Reginald Selkirk
    Posted July 27, 2013 at 5:56 pm | Permalink

    A gang of feral cats in France attacked a woman and her poodle

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted July 27, 2013 at 6:01 pm | Permalink

      I read about that – the cats must’ve been rabid though the article doesn’t mention that other than to say the woman was treated for rabies. Some close family friends of my parents experienced a similar thing with feral cats that lived on their farm, but there wasn’t a bunch at once & they ended up getting shots too.

      France really should do something about their feral cat issue – find a way to vaccinate the cats and prevent them from reproducing.

      • Posted July 27, 2013 at 6:17 pm | Permalink

        Yeah…I have a hard time believing that healthy feral cats would attack two humans and a dog without provocation.

        If not rabies, then possibly they were cornered and defending kittens, or some variation on that theme.

        Not to say that the humans aren’t being sincere in what they’re reporting…but I think it’s perfectly clear that, even if the report is the truth, it’s not the whole truth.


      • Diane G.
        Posted July 27, 2013 at 8:24 pm | Permalink

        Cats are quite susceptible to rabies but ASAIK, any animal in the attack phase of rabies is not likely to still be social.

  20. Posted July 28, 2013 at 1:26 pm | Permalink

    You can get an English translation of the Baudelaire poem and other cat poems at:

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