Friday, October 4, 2013

Introducing our favorite Samurai cat

Meet Hikonyan, the Samurai cat mascot for the 400-year-old castle located in Ann Arbor's sister city, Hikone, Japan. Hikonyan's name combines Hikone and nyan, the Japanese onomatopoeia for a cat’s meow.  

AAPS students who participate in Rec&Ed's Hikone - Ann Arbor Middle School Exchange program get to meet Hikonya when they visit the castle during their 2 week trip to Japan. Around the office, several staff have folders and other items with Hikonyan's picture -- the Hikone project directors bring more from Japan every year!
Not only is he adorable, but he's named for a heroic cat from Japanese historic lore. Hikonyan wears a kabuto (samurai helmet) with huge horns similar to the one Ii Naokatsu wore in battle. Ii Naokatsu was a Japanese daimyo during the Edo period who completed the construction of the castle and is also said to have escaped being struck by lightning thanks to a beckoning cat.
The "real" Hikonyan who greets castle visitors
This week the 35th delegation of Hikone middle school students are visiting Ann Arbor. The 14 students stay with AAPS families and spend time going to classes at our middle schools and visiting Ann Arbor sites. (See our Facebook album for pictures of the district-wide reception.)

This Sunday, we'll send off our Japanese friends in style at the annual "Sayonara Party."

I'll be there waving my new Hikonyan fan.

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  1. I'm thrilled to see the word "onomatopoeia" on the blog - and to learn about Hikonyan the Samurai cat. Thank you for that!! I met one of the Japanese exchange students who attends school with my son. She is wonderful, and I think this program promotes curiosity and interest in other cultures - and I think it's just terrific. Thanks for publicizing it.

  2. If anyone is interested, I wrote about the history of the Hikone exchange in this blog post: The Hikone Exchange.

    One thing I found really interesting in doing the research for the post is that many sister relationships between Shiga Prefecture (where Hikone is located) and Michigan started around the same time, and several of them still exist. There are some interesting articles in the Ann Arbor District Library's Old News.