Neko nezumi kassen [The War Between the Cats and the Rats].
Published by Yamamata,
Collection of National Diet Library.
This picture book deals with a unique theme: all-out war between the cats and the rats. Many scenes in the book show the influence of senki emaki (war scrolls) and kassen byobu-zu (battle scene screen paintings). The tactics, weapons, and banners of the rats and of the cats are creative and distinctive, depicted with a light and humorous touch reminiscent of a manga comic or anime film. The story also has a simple and happy ending that reflects religious beliefs deeply rooted in the Japanese ethos.
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(♪) Cats and rats have been natural enemies since long, long ago. Normally cats chase rats, but here it seems that they decided to have a war. What kind of war could this be, between cats and rats, and which side won? Let’s see how the story goes.(♪)
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(♪) Here is a picture of some cat and rat toys. One is a stand with a cat on it; if you press the lever a scary mask falls down and a cat pops up. Another is a rat toy on a thin bamboo stick; if you wave the stick, the rat skitters up to the red pepper at the top. Both are common traditional toys. The Japanese says, “New spring publication.”
The cat general gathers his troops
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(♪) There once was a cat general called Nekomata. One day, he called on all the tabby cats, black cats, red cats, tortoise-shell cats, tiger cats, white cats, and brindled cats, and when they were assembled, he roared, Nekomata: “Listen, everybody! You know the proverb ‘In the country guard against robbers; in the house beware of rats.’ Recently invasions of the rats have become intolerable. It’s as if cats didn’t exist anymore! I have gathered you here to put a proposal to you: let’s attack the rats and annihilate them. What do you say?” Cats: “We are all fed up, too. Agreed!”
Lucky Rat gathers rat troops
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(♪) On the other side there was a rat general called Lucky Rat. One day, the white rat, the general’s lieutenant, rushed in, gasping for breath, “Emergency, emergency!” White Rat: “It is terrible! Cat General Nekomata is on his way to attack us with a huge army. They are almost here.” Lucky Rat: “What? This is a crisis!” Lucky Rat immediately called on his mighty warriors among the white rats, red rats, tortoise-shell rats, China rats, mice, top-spinning rats, sewer rats, and with all others waited for the cat army to arrive.
The cat army is victorious
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(♪) In no time the great army of cats arrived and launched their attack. At first no one knew who was winning. But when the strong archers aimed their bamboo arrows at the rats, the rat army collapsed and scattered. Cat Soldiers: “What weaklings! Cowards! Come back here!” Rat Soldiers: “No, why should we go back! Too frightening even to pipsqueak!” The cats’ banners are decorated with their favorite delicacies, eel, loach, and dried bonito. Isn’t it amusing?
The rats counterattack
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(♪) Although they retreated and took flight, the rats regrouped under General Lucky Rat. They took out weapons they had prepared beforehand: long rods with paper bags on their ends. The small but shrewd China rats and mice advanced, putting the bags over the cats’ heads and blindfolding them. They couldn’t move. The cats slowly started to retreat. Rats: “We’ve got them! We’ve got the Cats!” Rats: “What a great weapon we have!” Cats: “Shucks! We lost that round.”
Cat army attacks once more
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(♪) After their strong and successful first attack, the cats were ashamed at their miserable defeat to the paper bags. They returned to the fray, and this time they marshaled a dreadful weapon: “Iwami Ginzan” rat poison. Look, you can see their banners emblazoned with the “Iwami Ginzan” name. That frightened the rats so thoroughly that they retreated again. Rats: “Look out! Danger! Water, water, we have to get some water!”
Lucky Rat conceives a new plot
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(♪) But of course Lucky Rat saw their chance to get back at the cats. He pulled out a huge papier-mache dog and put it right before the cats. The cats were terrified and stopped in their tracks. Rats: “See, you haven’t got a chance against this dog!” Cats: “Oh my! How did that dog get here? Run for your lives!”
Daikokuten mediates a truce
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(♪) The cat general called to his fleeing soldiers. Nekomata: “There’s nothing to fear, it’s only papier-mache! Stop being afraid and fight back! Fight back!” Regaining their courage, the cat troops returned and the fierce battle resumed. Then, all of a sudden, the deity Daikokuten appeared and ordered the two sides to make a truce. Daikokuten told them to write on their banners the words, “Safety for home and family,” and “Be careful of fire.”
No narration on page 14
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No narration on page 15
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