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Report from Fukushima / ‘Cat daddy’ of Odaka sparks smiles in Minamisoma

The Fukushima Minyu

Tomie Idogawa pushes his bike with his cat Gonta in the basket, in the Odaka district of Minamisoma, Fukushima Prefecture.

The Fukushima MinyuWhen you visit the Odaka district of Minamisoma, Fukushima Prefecture, you may come across a man riding a bicycle with his cat in the front basket — a scene that makes local residents smile. He’s the “Cat Daddy of Odaka.”

Tomie “Cat Daddy” Idogawa lives in the district, where an evacuation order was lifted in July 2016, five years after the accident at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant that was triggered by the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake. Idogawa, now 69, returned home with his male cat Gonta, now 7, in the spring of 2017.

The 2011 disaster forced Idogawa to evacuate to a gymnasium in the nearby Haramachi district of the city, sending Gonta to a shelter in Fukushima city.

Six months later, Idogawa moved to a temporary housing unit in Minamisoma where residents were allowed to live with their pets, thus resuming life with his precious feline companion. Looking back on life as an evacuee, he said, “Gonta’s innocence encouraged me over and over again.”

Idogawa received Gonta from a neighbor who was looking for someone to raise the kitten. Since then, the basket of Idogawa’s bike has been a favorite place for the cat, and Idogawa always goes out with him. When Gonta takes his regular position, a lead is placed on him, with the cat looking around at the passing view of his hometown as he enjoys the breeze.

“Local children wave to us cheerfully,” Idogawa said.Speech

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