“The Travelling Cat Chronicles” by Hiro Arikawa

“It’s not the journey that counts,

but who is at your side.”

Hiro Arikawa – The travelling cat chronicles

Estimated reading time: 5 minutes


Nana the cat is on a road trip. Sitting in the front seat of his favorite silver van with his beloved one, Satoru. But he has no idea about where he is heading to. Satoru is keen to visit his old friends from his youth. Though Nana doesn’t know why and Satoru won’t say anything.

Together they travel around Japan through the changing seasons. They meet Kosuke, a childhood friend from elementary school whose wife has just recently left him and moved back in with her parents. After that, they meet Yoshimine, a friend from his junior high school who is now a farmer. He is an unsentimental farmer for whom cats are just for catching rats. Finally, he meets Sugi and Chikako who have been friends of his since high school and university days. They run a hotel that allows pets to come along.

But what is the purpose of this trip? What will happen at the end of their journey? The story is mostly narrated from a cat’s point of view with a rare gentleness and striking humor. Nana’s story explores the wonder and thrill of life’s unexpected detours. It is about friendship, love, and how to experience happiness even in face of loss and grief.


The Travelling Cat Chronicles by Hiro Arikawa, translated into English by Philip Gabriel, is a both heart-warming and heart-breaking story that will take you to various emotional routes. The storyline of the opening chapters tends to be slow. But Nana’s sarcastic sense of humor won’t give you a chance to get bored. The story may seem simple and plain. However, you will encounter unexpected plot twists in the later chapters which will stay with you long after you’ve read the book.

“It’s not the journey that counts, but who is at your side”

Nana enjoys travelling with Satoru sitting in the front seat of his favorite silver van. All that matters for him is to stay beside Satoru no matter what. And he is ready to fight anything or anyone that would stop him from doing so. Also, he is a loyal cat willing to protect Satoru no matter what. He proved so by fighting with Sugi’s dog which is bigger in size compared to him.

I love how the story is portrayed from a cat’s point of view, Nana narrating most parts of the story. It’s hard for the readers to forget about Nana’s judgmental attitude, his attraction to warm objects, especially the TV from Sugi and Chikako’s place, and old cardboard boxes.

“Humans who think we don’t understand them are the stupid ones”

Nana being a former street cat, is so proud of his street smarts. Being a proud cat with particular survival skills, he believes that he is superior to any animals he meets, especially humans. He understands human language and criticizes humans whenever he has a chance.

The Travelling Cat Chronicles does have an enormously sad ending. However, it is one of those special kinds of sad endings that is beautiful, heart-warming, and teaches the readers how to move on with life after a loss. It’s all worth the tears. Honestly, I could hardly remember the last book that had me sobbing like this one. Nonetheless, I would read it again and recommend everyone to read this book like Satoru telling every passer-by why he named his cat Nana. There is no doubt that it’s a must-read book for cat lovers.

Author Information

Hiro Arikawa

Hiro Arikawa won the tenth annual Dengeki Novel Prize for new writers for Shio no Machi (Wish on My Precious) in 2003. Her 2006 light novel Toshokan Sensō (The Library War) became Hon no Zasshi’s number one for entertainment for the first half of 2006 and came fifth in the Honya Taishō for that year.

She has written about the Japan Self-Defense Forces (JSDF); her first three novels concerning its three branches are known as the Jieitai Sanbusaku (The SDF Trilogy). She also wrote about the fictional Library Forces in the Toshokan Sensō series. Raintree no Kuni, which first appeared as a book within a book in Toshokan Nairan which Arikawa later published as a spin-off with another publisher. It was adapted into a film titled World of Delight released on November 21, 2015.

Her novel Shokubutsu Zukan became a film titled Shokubutsu Zukan: Unmei no Koi, Hiroimashita (Evergreen Love), released on June 4, 2016. Likewise, two other of her novels, i.e. Freeter, Ie wo Kau and Hankyū Densha were respectively in film or TV series in 2010 and 2011.

Hiro Arikawa

Tabineko Ripouto was published in English as The Travelling Cat Chronicles in 2017. In it, the protagonist is a cat called Nana, which travels with his owner, Satoru, across Japan.

Philip Gabriel

Philip Gabriel received his doctorate in Japanese literature from Cornell University after studying in Japan under a Fulbright graduate fellowship. He published his first translation of a short story by Haruki Murakami in 1988. Since then, he has published many translations of Murakami‘s works.

In addition, he has published translations of novels by Kenzaburo Oe, Senji Kuroi, Masahiko Shimada, and Natsuo Kirino. His translation of Kuroi‘s novel Gunsei (Life in the Cul-de-sac) won the 2001 Japan-U.S. Friendship Commission Prize for the translation of Japanese Literature, and in 2006 he won the PEN/Book-of-the-Month Club Translation Prize for his translation of Murakami‘s Kafka on the Shore.

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