Police Box Tabby Cat Watches Over Japan Community

The Yomiuri Shimbun
A cat sits with officer Yoichi Asakura at the Kaneko residential police box in Iruma, Saitama Prefecture, on Friday.

SAITAMA — A stray tabby that befriended a police officer is now the much-loved “resident cat” at a residential police box in Iruma, Saitama Prefecture.

“She’s an adorable, valuable member of our team,” said officer Yoichi Asakura, 62, of the Kaneko police box.

Wearing a police hat made for her, the mackerel tabby often peers at local residents from a window of the police box, which is one minute from JR Kaneko Station on the Hachiko Line. At other times, she stretches and yawns on a table.

“The resident cat ‘works’ like this all the time,” Asakura said while petting her.

Asakura encountered the cat in December 2021. She was wandering near the police box and didn’t run away when he approached her. He thought she might belong to someone, so he initially left her alone, but she grew thinner day by day. Asakura decided to take her in about a week later.

The Sayama Police Station, which has jurisdiction over the police box, checked for a microchip to identify an owner, but she didn’t have one. After consulting with his wife Misako, Asakura decided to keep the cat until an owner appears.

Asakura soon found the cat to be good-tempered and friendly. She seems to like looking out the window of the police box, and sometimes plays outside in the sun. Asakura and the cat have never missed a “patrol,” walking around the community in the morning and evening.

People ranging from children to senior citizens have visited the police box to pet the cat and take pictures, which has created more opportunities for Asakura to interact with local residents.

He takes advantage of these visits to urge people to be wary of scams and other crimes. Asakura also had a chance to chat with a high school student about police duties, and the boy later passed the exam to join the prefectural police.

“We’ve been able to talk about various things, thanks to the cat,” Misako said.

In honor of her contributions, the cat was given a hat made by a member of the Sayama Police Station’s community affairs section in January.

“She’s the idol of the police station, cherished by many officers,” said section chief Shuichi Kaminaga.

Asakura and others in the community call the tabby “neko” — Japanese for cat — or “neko chuzai,” meaning resident cat. They’ve refrained from giving her a name, because her owner might appear some day.

“I want to continue to watch over the community with her until her owner shows up,” Asakura said.