Since this story actually began several years ago, we need to start there.
Sometime in 2016, two cats embarked on a mission to enter an art museum located in western Japan, the Onomichi City Museum of Art. Ironically, at the time, the museum was hosting an exhibit of cat photography—or perhaps not so ironically.
It could be argued that Ken-chan, the black cat who initially tried to steal into the museum on his own, knew exactly what was inside.
According to the Guardian, who reported on the story in 2018, the museum’s curator, Shinji Umebayashi, said,
“I’m guessing that Ken-chan spotted some of the exhibits through the glass, and since the photos included those of black cats, he must have thought he had found a new friend. And then he just kept coming back.”
Regardless, despite his best efforts to breach the entrance, admittance was denied. He ended up in a standoff with a security guard, Sadao Umayahara.
But Cats are Stubborn
Ken-chan remained undeterred, making ceaseless attempts to get into the museum. And in time, he started bringing a partner in crime—a ginger-colored cat museum staff named as well. They named him Go-chan.
No one really knows who the cats belong to or where they live, but Umebayashi, mentioned above, said,
“I’d seen him around so we think he must live locally, but we’re not sure where, exactly.”
A friendship eventually blossomed between Ken-chan and the guard, Umayahara. Before long, it was something of a game. The cats tried to get in, and the guard shoos them on their way.
Umayahara has even become protective of him. Sometimes Ken-chan will sneakily wait as the museum’s automatic doors slide closed, and at the last moment, make a break for it, trying to run inside. And Umayahara, alert to how dangerous this could be for the cat if he got stuck in the door, rushes to avert disaster.
At least that’s what we’d like to believe, right? Perhaps he’s just springing into action to keep the cat outside.
The Museum Takes on a Side Hustle
Thanks to their Twitter page and the media coverage, the museum was able to capitalize on their notoriety. Many people begged the museum to allow the cat’s entrance, but for the most part, they just couldn’t get enough of the interchanges between man and cats.
However, it’s understandable that the museum would have to do their best to keep them out.
What they did do is dedicate a line of merchandise to cat lovers—or at least two very special cats.
Customers of the museum love their Ken-chan tote bag.
Which Brings us to Today
Since the beginning of 2020, most countries in the world have faced lockdowns and stay-at-home orders, and Japan has been no different. Businesses, tour attractions, and entertainment venues had to shut their doors.
According to Asahi Shimbun News, the doors of the Onomichi City Museum of Art were locked to visitors—and would-be feline intruders—for several months. Referencing the guard and cat, they state,
“They had not seen each other since March 14, due partly to the museum’s temporary closure from mid-April to early May because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Now they are both back to punching the clock.”
I can’t help but wonder what Ken-chan and Go-chan did during that time period. How were their daily routines disrupted? Did they lie in front of the doors waiting for the humans to come back? We may never know.
But we do know that they have finally been reunited.
On May 24, a staff member of the museum tweeted this happy message.
“A photo of the two for the first time in a while! We’ve been waiting for you, meow!”
Except for the mask, it was like nothing had ever changed. And despite the mask, Ken-chan clearly recognized and remembered his friend. The mask didn’t stop him from moving in for a cuddle.
And the museum’s followers were thrilled, posting responses like,
“This is what I’ve been waiting for!” and “The way he looks at the cat is always tender.”
True friendships will survive despite distance and separation.
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