Misao to Fukumaru (Misao the Big Mama and Fukumaru the Cat), a collection of photographs chronicling the ordinary daily life of an elderly woman and her beloved cat Fukumaru, might seem an unlikely bestseller. But perhaps it is precisely the tranquility of Misao’s peaceful rural life that has appealed to so many busy residents of Japan’s crowded and ultramodern cities.
The photographer responsible for capturing the bucolic lives of Ihara Misao and her feline companion is Ihara Miyoko. The identical family name is no coincidence: Miyoko is Misao’s granddaughter, and the pair live together. Miyoko, now 30 years old, wanted to photograph her grandmother to compile a permanent record of her life. Back in 2003, three years after she began her project, a stray cat happened to give birth to a white male kitten in a barn on the Ihara property. The cat was soon adopted into the family and became Misao’s inseparable companion. Suddenly, Miyoko had two lives to capture with her camera.