Photo/Illutration “The Origin Story of the Cat Stone at Okabe, Representing One of the Fifty-three Stations of the Tokaido Road” by Utagawa Kuniyoshi will be on display for the second part of the exhibition from July 29 to Aug. 29. (Provided by Fujisawa City Art Space)

FUJISAWA, Kanagawa Prefecture--Much mystery surrounds the collector behind an ongoing exhibition at Fujisawa City Art Space here, but one thing is for certain: Whoever it is likes cats, big time. 

The anonymous collector, who goes by the name of Manekineko-tei, amassed about 630 pieces of art featuring felines over 40 years, including paintings, prints and sculptures from all ages and cultures, 130 pieces of which are on display at the gallery.

Manekineko-tei started collecting cat-themed artworks after acquiring “Girl with a Cat,” an original painting by Leonard Foujita, and went on to gather a wide variety of artworks, ranging from large multicolored “nishiki-e” prints from the Edo Period (1603-1867) to paintings and sculptures by modern artists.

Manekineko-tei’s trove boasts works by Utagawa Hiroshige, Utagawa Kuniyoshi, Sadao Tsubaki, Satoshi Yabuuchi, Aubrey Beardsley and Leonor Fini.

It includes “Nitta Neko,” a popular cat motif used as a talisman by silk farmers to chase away rats during the Edo Period.

“Nitta Neko” by Iwamatsu (Nitta) Yoshizumi was used as a talisman by silk farmers to chase away rats. (Provided by Fujisawa City Art Space)

Exhibitions featuring selected artworks from the collection have been held across Japan since 2008.

Manekineko-tei parted with the collection three years ago.

“I’ve reached the age when I must think about the future of the pieces that I cherish,” the collector said.

Manekineko-tei decided to donate his collection on the conditions that all the pieces would be kept together properly in a storage facility and be occasionally shown to the public.

It took two years for the collector to single out the Fujisawa city government as the recipient for the donation.

“I’m happy because many people will love and enjoy them,” Manekineko-tei said.

The first part of the summer-themed “Natsu Neko-biyori” exhibition runs until July 25. Some of the exhibits will be replaced for the second part, which will be held from July 29 to Aug. 29.

Fujisawa City Art Space is open from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. (last entry: 6:30 p.m.) and closed on Mondays (except Aug. 9), between July 26 and 28, and on Aug. 10.

Admission is 200 yen ($1.80) for adults and 100 yen for high school and college students.

For inquiries, visit the official website at (