Cat lovers in Japan were hit hard earlier this month with the sad news of celebrity kitty Fukumaru’s passing, oddly, a full year after the fact.

By Luca Eandi

Fukumaru, a white, odd-eyed Japanese Bobtail cat, became a viral sensation in 2012, when images from Miyoko Ihara‘s book “Misao the Big Mama and Fukumaru the Cat” hit the web. The book is a document of Miyoko’s elderly grandmother, Misao, and her loyal cat companion. Miyoko’s charming snapshots document their daily life in rural Chiba. Found as a stray kitten in a shed, Fukumaru became inseparable from Misao, following her around as she farmed her land.


“Partly because they are both hard of hearing, my grandmother and Fukumaru are always looking into each other’s eyes. They’re really close,” Miyoko told in 2012. Her book became a best-seller in Japan and interest spread further West following a Buzzfeed piece that was published nearly four years ago.


Earlier this month, on March 16, news of Fukumaru’s death due to kidney failure was posted to Miyoko’s Facebook page. Accompanying a photo of the deceased cat surrounded by flowers from Fukumaru’s funeral, she stated, “Together with gratitude today, there is a matter of which we would like to inform you. As shown in the photograph, Fukumaru has traveled to the sky.”


Surprisingly, Miyoko also announced in the post that Fukumaru had actually died more than a year earlier, on February 22, 2015, and that the delay in conveying the news was out of concern for the fans. An outpouring of well-wishes and condolences flooded Miyoko’s Facebook page, as well as questions about her grandmother’s condition, as of yet undisclosed.


“Death is not the end. Fukumaru, I think, has told me so,” posted Miyoko as a follow-up on March 19. Fukumaru was 11 years old. Misao Ihara is now in her early 90s.

All images by Miyoko Ihara.