They say that Japan and Russia are engaged in all-out war. As a Japanese cat I'm partial, of course, to Japan. So much so that, if I could, I'd gladly assemble a cat brigade and claw those Russian soldiers. To a cat brimming so with vitality, what's a mouse or two? I could catch one in my sleep, without effort, if I made up my mind to. Long ago, a certain man turned to his Zen master and asked how best to attain enlightenment. Be like the cat, the master is said to have told him, who's set its sights on a mouse. What he meant was that the cat, once focused on its prey, doesn't come up short. There's an old proverb about a woman outsmarting herself and failing to sell the cow, but there's no comparable maxim about a cat outsmarting itself and failing to catch the mouse. Which leads me to reason that even I, clever as I am, should have no trouble catching a mouse. Not only should I have no trouble catching one, I should expect success on each and every endeavor. If I haven't yet caught one, it's simply because I've never tried.
Spring evenings fall as on the day prior, with a flurry of blossoms set adrift by a chance breeze, some drifting in through the crack in the shōji and landing in the bucket, where they float white in the dim light of the kitchen lamp. Tonight's the night I shine, when all the household marvels at my feats. In preparation, I scout out the battleground, taking in the lay of the land. The front lines, of course, are hardly vast. In terms of tatami, four or so mats, one of which is divided between the sink and the patch of bare floor where the saké vendor and greengrocer call. The cooking stove, far too grand for the kitchen it's in, sports a bright copper kettle. Between the back of the stove and the wainscotting is the strip of floor where my food bowl rests. Along the wall nearest the living room is a long cupboard with serving trays, bowls, cups, and saucers, making the cramped kitchen tighter still. On the adjacent wall are open shelves, the highest just brushing the top of the cupboard. On a lower shelf sits an earthenware mortar, face up, and in the mortar rests a small bucket whose undersurface is angled my way. A daikon grater and wooden pestle are hung side by side, and off by itself sits a charcoal pot. From the point where the blackened rafters intersect, there hangs a pothook, supporting a large, flat basket. The basket, catching the occasional breeze, sways with a gentle motion. When I first arrived in this house, the purpose of this basket eluded me. Later on, when I learned that its purpose was to keep foodstuff out of my reach, the fiendish nature of man hit home most keenly.