That the Japanese really, really love cats is a well-documented fact, especially on the internets. And they also seem to love certain breeds of cats: you see a lot of photos of Japanese Scottish Folds, Munchkins (I saw my first Munchkin in real life in a pet store in Tokyo), Japanese Bobtails (of course), and Abyssinians. I see more Abyssinians depicted on Japanese items than anywhere else.
I got this stationery around 1999 or 2000…mainly because it featured an Aby kitten!
So you can just imagine my delight when, playing the newest smartphone cat game craze Mew Mew Tower, I noticed that some of the cats were definitely Abyssinian-oid.
See that little kitten on the top of the heap? That’s meant to be an Aby!
Also known as Tsumineko (and, sometimes, “Cat Sin Crime” when translating Japanese websites to English), the object of the game is simple: stack cats as high as you can.
You take your cats randomly out of the balloon-supported “Kitty Box” and you stack them, one on the other, as high as you can. Simple, right? The cats themselves, though, are the fun of the game. They make faces and meow, especially when a bigger one is set atop a smaller one.
Of course, my favourite part of the game is the Abys. There are kittens…
…and adults. There are no fat, bob-tailed Abys in this game.
Here’s a close-up of a kitten.
And here’s one of the adults.
There are different versions of the game available for iPhones and iPads, and most of them feature an Aby. My personal favourite is Mew Mew Tower 2.
There is also a comic book that can be found at Amazon.jp, and there’s also an e-version available through iTunes. All of the variations are pretty darn adorable.
I’m not exactly sure of the translation of the word “Tsumineko”… according to Wikipedia, “Tsumi” means “sin” or “crime” and I’m not entirely sure how stacking a tower of cats is a sin. But it explains why the common English translation is “Cat Sin.”
The Tsumineko website has lots of information (all in Japanese) and also wallpapers and desktop patterns.
Tsumineko aren’t easy to find in the US or Canada yet, but if you look at eBay or Amazon.jp, you can find some Tsumineko toys, like this plushy stack of three (that stay together through the magic of Velco).
There are also keychain/cellphone charms that are remarkably detailed.
You can also find cellphone charms that can be stacked into a sort of chained tower. You buy them in sets of two or three cats and link them together as you choose. This one features a big fat cat and an Aby kitten.
Which Google translates as: “By connecting Fastener Mascot sin cat (Abyssinian Chibi Hachiware & fat)” on Amazon.jp.
You can get cats being pulled from the Kitty Box by the disembodied hand (which I personally find to be rather creepy).
You can link the cats together into a pretty impressive tower-chain.
There are also sets of magnetised cats that you can stack into actual towers.
These sets also include the Abyssinians.
One part of the comic book features photo-cartoons of cats posing with their plastic Tsumineko counterparts. It’s adorable, and, although I can’t read Japanese, I’m sure it’s hilarious, too. But these photos inspired me…
…so, here’s Jacoby with the Tsumineko Abys.
He’s not quite as good as posing as the Japanese cats were.
Whoops…he knocked down one of the towers. Not the Abys, though, you’ll notice.
But best of all, there are more Tsumineko items coming out all the time. I discovered a set of four Otoneko (middle-sized) cats with mufflers that were released in late October/early November, one of which was the Abyssinian!
Well, of course I had to find that Aby! Sadly, the muffler cats aren’t available for sale; they’re only available as claw machine prizes at various “UFO Catcher arcades in Japan But, thanks to a marvelous eBay seller called Gentleakindo_in_Japan who promises “If you can’t find items you’re looking for, please feel free to contact us. We will find any item for you!!” I was able to get the Aby Otoneko!
He’s a really well-made plushy, too. I have a Docomo Mushroom that was wrested from a claw machine at an arcade in VenusPort after a long struggle and many 100 Yen coins, and it’s wonderful. This little Aby is as well-crafted as any stuffed animal you would pay for in a store.
Of course I had to put a red scarf on Jacoby and pose them together.
He posed much better with the larger Tsumineko than he did with the little ones. In fact, he posed so well I was inspired to make this:
Because one of my favourite LOLcats needed an Aby update, don’t you think?
Tsumineko have not been around that long in Japan; from what I can tell, they’re about a year old. Hopefully, their popularity will spread to North America, and we’ll be able to find these toys here.