It’s a well-known fact that cats have been dominating the world lately. Memes, Facebook profiles, Monopoly game pieces – there seems to be no end to kitty domination. So what about the cats in Japan? Well it turns out that cat memes are pretty prolific here too. Only here they’re not playing keyboards or watching you from the ceiling. Instead, they’re showing off two of Japan’s most special talents: sleeping and apologizing. AT THE SAME TIME.
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So why is this a big deal? Well, for one: it’s sleeping. And in Japan, sleeping is a cultural (and very public) phenomenon. Businessmen do it, students in class do it, there are even sleep cafes where you can get away from work to do it. Generally accepted as a side-effect of hard work, exhausted Japanese seem to have the superhuman ability to sleep anywhere. Although we’re not sure what job has overworked poor little kitty…
The sleeping pose is extra cute because it looks like kitty’s apologizing, Asian-style, with a deep, sincere bow. Bowing on the ground, hands-out-nose-on-the-floor-style, conveys apology so well that it has its own emoticon – m(_ _)m – which pops up frequently in Japanese emails and texts.
But the cute stuff doesn’t stop there. The Japanese love a good play on words and they use a witty one to describe this cat pose. It combines the phrase “sorry”: ごめんね (“gomen ne”), with the word for sleep: 寝る (“neru”) and the word for cat: ネコ (“neko”). So when you put them together, keeping one “ne” in the middle, it becomes: ごめんね ごめん寝 ごめん寝コ, which gives you “gomen neko”; literally “sorry cat”. Using the character 寝 for “sleep” in the reading is handy for playing up the total indifference involved in a sleeping apology. Quite typical of cats really.
Japanese cat owners love sharing their sorry cat photos on the net, with or without the cute “gomen ne” tag. But if you don’t have a furry feline of your own, don’t despair; there are plenty of sorry cat cell phone straps and headphone jack charms available so you too can join in this cutely apologetic craze.