Photo/IllutrationA cat tries out the “kotatsu” for cats. (Provided by Nakata Keiniku-ten)

  • Photo/Illustraion
  • Photo/Illustraion
  • Photo/Illustraion

GOBO, Wakayama Prefecture--The surprise hit of the season here is aimed at cat lovers who think no winter evening is complete without devouring "mikan" oranges while warming their legs under a traditional "kotatsu" floor heater.

Local poultry dealer Nakata Keiniku-ten came up with the idea of offering a large box of mikan along with an easy-to-assemble kotatsu for cats.

It has proven to be a big hit, with nearly 1,000 sets sold since the product made its debut on Dec. 14.

The special kotatsu heater is the brainchild of senior company executive Naoki Nakata, who is an avid cat lover and eager to promote local lesser-known varieties of tasty mikan.

It plays on the tradition of families warming their legs on cold winter evenings under a table equipped with an electric heater underneath and covered by a quilt to retain warmth, while drinking green tea and eating mikan.

The product, "Neko to Kotatsu to Omoide Mikan" (Cats and kotatsu and memorable mikan), consists of a simple cardboard kit that can be quickly set up so purchasers can snap photos of their beloved cat or cats huddling in and near the kotatsu.

It comes with a 5-kilogram box of mandarin oranges, and costs 3,922 yen ($36.31), excluding tax.

The price of 3,922 yen is a pun on “Thank you, kitty," in Japanese.

Since its debut online, images of cats entering the kotatsu have gone viral on Twitter and Instagram posts.

The kotatsu for cats is about half the size of a traditional one used by families, and does not have a heater.

A cardboard manufacturer introduced by a friend collaborated on the project.

“I want customers to take unforgettable pictures of their cats and realize how tasty local oranges are,” Nakata said. “It's a way of promoting our company and the local region, while at the same time bring fun and happiness to people and their cats."

Mikan offered by the company include the Tenda and Habu varieties, in addition to the famed Arida variety for which Wakayama Prefecture is known.

“I wanted to let people know that there are other delicious mikan in this region,” Nakata said.

Nakata said 2 percent of the sales will go to Neco Republic, cat cafes for stray cats that his friends operate in Tokyo and Osaka.