Of photographing a cat in Japan

It was a nice Sunday evening and the lighting conditions were good so I decided to take a stroll around my apartment with my camera. I came across a cat relaxing on the road and proceeded to take a few photos of it.


Then suddenly two Japanese children (probably 9-10 years old) approached me and asked if I was taking photos of the cat. I answered yes and then one of them said I cannot take photos of their cat.

A million thoughts raced through my mind at that point. Did I do something wrong? Why can’t I take photos of this cat? What mortal sin have I committed that even a child can see through me? As much as I wanted to defend myself and question them, my limited command of Japanese prevented me from doing so.

But then the other kid said it was okay to photograph the cat. The first kid, unhappy that his companion had contradicted his earlier statement shot him a look and began to discuss something with him in whispers. Then it occurred to me these kids might just be playing a prank on a helpless foreigner who can barely speak Japanese.  Not wanting to find out the outcome of their discussion I apologized and walked away.

I’m not sure what to make of the entire ordeal but I guess walking around a neighborhood in Japan with a camera (especially a DSLR) isn’t exactly a good idea. Let’s stick to tourist sites and cosplay events from now on.

4 thoughts on “Of photographing a cat in Japan

  1. Its fine to take street images in Japan. The laws are weak in Japan whereas relationships are strong. As long as you’re not obviously offending anyone you’re probably OK. Smile, be polite and don’t take the shot if too many people are staring at you! Other than that you are probably OK. Just beware, due to the Japanese underground enjoying, shall we say, alternative views of ladies, don’t hold the camera to low. 🙂

    • Thank you for dropping by Michael. To my understanding, the laws are weak but if someone wanted to take me to court for a photo infringing their right to privacy, the chances of winning is quite high. It is also the reason Japanese media apply mosaic to censor any faces of passing people in their photos.

      Anyway, it’s probably a long shot that anyone would bother to sue me over a photo. But since I am here for work, I’d better remain cautious 🙂

    • Yep, I suspect the first kid was just having a bit of fun. But it was a good reminder not to walk around a quiet neighborhood with a giant camera. On hindsight, I must have looked suspicious. Heh.

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