When the curious feline first appeared at the museum two years ago in the summer of 2016, the only thing it brought was good publicity.
It was only days after the museum’s opening of Cats — Mitsuaki Iwago Photography Exhibition that the building’s security guard had a charming standoff with a black cat named Ken-chan, who belongs to the owners of a nearby restaurant. The standoff was caught on camera and promptly posted to social media. A serendipitous and lighthearted exchange, the cat’s arrival proved just how eager the aristocat was to sample some high culture.
But then the cat came back the very next day. And the day after, too.
“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,” the museum’s curator, Shinji Umebayashi, told The Guardian. “And then he just kept coming back.”
Word of mouth must travel fast through Japan’s cat community. Eventually, Ken-chan started turning up with a ginger cat, which museum staff affectionately named Go-chan.
Last month, the museum posted a video on its Twitter feed showing Ken-chan attempt some trickery to pass the security guard. He waits for the automatic doors to begin closing before attempting to dart through, but the guard catches the king of the forest just in time.
Such exchanges have gone viral. The museum, which now has over 46,000 Twitter followers, has also launched a range of souvenirs featuring the two cats as unofficial mascots. Online, the two cats and security guard have even inspired fan art.
Umebayashi tells The Guardian that the cats are still seen on the museum’s premises most days. “The museum is in a park so there’s no traffic to worry about,” he said. “They treat the park like it’s their own garden.” And despite both being male, the two cats are sweet to each other.