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Reading: Japan’s Zoomorphic Urge


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Research of Note

Japan’s Zoomorphic Urge


Laura Miller

About Laura
Laura Miller, Loyola University of Chicago, has published widely on Japanese popular culture and language, including topics such as the wizard boom, the Korean Wave, girls’ slang, and print club photos. She is the author of Beauty Up: Exploring Contemporary Japanese Body Aesthetics (University of California Press, 2006), and co-editor (with Jan Bardsley above) of Bad Girls of Japan. She recently completed, again with Jan Bardsley, Manners and Mischief: Gender and Power in Japanese Conduct Literature.
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One of the Japanese conduct books in my collection substitutes cats for humans in its illustrations. For instance, in one drawing, an anthropomorphic cat giving a speech at a wedding reception makes the mistake of using the verb for cutting (kiru), and shocks the other feliform guests who are dressed in festive finery. Sometimes Japanese words are categorized as imi kotoba, language that should be avoided at weddings and other auspicious occasions. In this case, saying “to cut” might bring on the ruin of the marriage through magical association. What is interesting is that it is a cat, albeit one dressed in people’s clothing, using imi kotoba.
How to Cite: Miller, L., 2010. Japan’s Zoomorphic Urge. ASIANetwork Exchange: A Journal for Asian Studies in the Liberal Arts, 17(2), pp.69–82. DOI:
Published on 01 Apr 2010.
Peer Reviewed


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