It reads like a cliché, but Takayama – and Sannomachi Street in particular – really is one of those places where it feels like you've stepped back in time. We associate Japan with modernity in so many different ways: skyscrapers, bullet trains, and robotics, but slightly off the beaten path lie a series of preserved villages, towns, and cities with parts dating back to the Edo period (1603-1868). Takayama is my favourite amongst them, and the Sannomachi still retains much of its rich mercantile flavour, as the street is packed with wonderful little shops selling saké, sweets and gifts
I wanted to capture the Sannomachi as synoptically as possible in the tight word count. A passive and apathetic cat – much more interested in resting than in what's actually happening down on the street below – seemed like the perfect lens with which to view the hustle and bustle. Cats have also long been associated with good fortune in Japan, but the maneki-neko especially – the 'beckoning cat' you often see in the windows of Chinese restaurants in the UK, despite their Japanese origin – are thought to help bring customers into the shop or restaurant they beckon from. In this way, I thought a cat would be the ideal candidate through which to tell the story, ambassadors as they are in Japan for all things mercantile and calm symbols of continuity from the Edo period to the Reiwa era we currently inhabit.
Runner-up in the Wicked Young Writer Awards, Laurence Sullivan’s creative writing has appeared in such places as: Londonist, The List and NHK-World.
This story is read by Mariah Gale and is one of nine selected from entries to a competition run by the Museum of Walking and included in an anthology called Flash #MyLandmarks published in November 2019 by Sampson Low Publishers and available from them or from the Museum of Walking.