Illustrator Shuhei Urano with Sousuke and Shizuku
On a glowing sunny day before the rainy season, we came to see Mr. Shuhei Urano, a leading illustrator known as Shu-Thang Grafix in Japan. He works with magazines, advertisements, publications etc. and has his work widely in Japan. He’s married to his wife Hiromi with 2 boys and lives in a house with their beloved cats, Sousuke and Shizuku. In the living room filled with laughs and loves, we had an interview about their life with the cats.
Sousuke (Brown Tabby / Male / Approximately born in 2007)
Shizuku (Tortoiseshell / Female / Approximately boan in 2013)
SHU-THANG GRAFIX – SHUHEI URANO (Illustrator / Graphic designer)
Shuhei Urano works to design illustrations on Magagines, Books, Advertisements, CD covers etc. He published 『スマートモテリーマン講座-The road of Smart Moteryman』 from Magazine House in 2005. http://www.shu-thang.com/
One cat led us to build a house
― Could you tell me how you met Sousuke?
There was a lady who loves and takes care of stray cats in the neighborhood where I used to live. She was famous as “Cat woman”. I think these women are every neighborhood. One day she came over and asked if we could take care of a kitten she had. Apparently it was the start.
― Wow, you were asked suddenly?
Yes. We were living in an apartment where pets are banned. When I was hesitating to answer, my girlfriend (my wife) was looking at me as if she was about to say something.
― So she was ready to have that kitten?
(Hiromi) YES!! I used to have a cat when I was little and always wanted to have a cat. I love cats. Around the time of when I met that lady, I was making handmade cat collars and was trying to sell. All I felt at that time was that it was a fate.
― and what happened?
I had a big pressure not to say no. We were of course not ready to have a cat but that lady prepared everything for us. So, we ended up by welcoming that kitten, Sousuke.
― But you were living in a no-pet apartment at the time?
Yes. We had to move out quickly and decided to build a house. I think we wouldn’t have a house this quick if we didn’t meet Sousuke.
― What a rapid decision and development!! You two got married after that and the house was completed. You also ordered a cat pathway in the house?
Yes. Everything is for cats. As every door in the house has a cat-path, they can walk through whenever they want. That’s why they always try to get in my way when I work home. We also have 2 doors at the entrance.
Second cat, Shizuku, was rescued at the ditch next to railway track.
― Could you tell me about how you met the other cat, tortoiseshell Shizuku?
When we were about to go have lunch one day, we found a kitten being attacked by crows at the ditch next to railway track. Her eyes were still closed and she couldn’t even cry. She was there under blazing sun. We couldn’t leave her alone. So…
― I see. How was she when you rescued her?
We took her to a vet as soon as we rescued her. She had injuries in her eyes, nose and mouth. There were bugs in her stomach, too. I took care of her in my work space for a while. I got busy with both work due date and Shizuku. I usually wear an apron but I did when I was taking care of her just like a mama (laugh). She is about 2 years and still has a scar on her nose but she is grown up well.
― Did Sousuke and Shizuku get along well soon?
When they first met, I was holding Shizuku in my arms. Sousuke was very curious about her. On the other hand, Shizuku was like looking at a wild beast.
― It was nice Sousuke was friendly.
Sousuke is nice from cats to people. You know, here is what happens. When our baby boy cries, you can’t always go there right away to take care of although you hear he cries. Then, Sousuke comes to me as if to tell me “Hey, he’s crying”. Once he lets me know, he goes back to the baby and watches. When Shizuku comes to him while he has a meal, he stops eating. He goes behind Shizuku and waits for her to finish her meal.
― He is a male cat that is motherly.
I think so. On the other hand, he easily feels lonely and tends to fawn on you. Whenever we leave and come back home, he cries. What a sad face he shows when we tell him “You have to stay home today”.
Shizuku is a Gal / Sousuke is a mailman!?
― How would you describe Shizuku’s characteristic?
If she was a human, she would have been a Gal (laugh). She can be hot and cold. She follows you when you leave her alone but tries to get away from you when you try to stroke her.
She would have been a type of girl who would buy Samantha Thavatha (laugh) or put pop idol’s posters to decorate her room. She would say “Dad, I wanna have that poster he is on” something like that.
― It’s interesting to personify cats. What would Sousuke be if you personify him?
He would have been a mailman in countryside who would have tea to chat with an old lady until the sunset. He would go back and have to apologize his boss like “I’m sorry I could deliver only one mail”. However, the boss would say “It’s you, Sousuke. That’s all right” as if everyone loves Sousuke. He would have been a loved one.
― These two are very different to each other. Do they get along well?
Sousuke is not good at expressing his love. Sometimes it can be too much and gets Shizuku angry.
Sousuke always stays up with me
― I would like to know what it means for you to have Sousuke and Shizuku.
They are my children. Sousuke is my first son and Shizuku is my first daughter.
They are my stay-up-all-night buddies when I have to work.
― You must be very busy at work. It must be nice to have stay-up buddies.
Sousuke always comes to my work space and stays next to the keyboard even after my family went to bed. Shizuku on the other hand comes but always has a let-me-bother-you face. Then, she always begs breakfast at midnight. When that happens, Sousuke begs, too.
― Do you get any illustrative inspirations from them?
Hmm, no. It’s just like looking at sleeping Shizuku makes me feel like sleeping, too. You know, she looks very comfortable sleeping on her back on a printer. Sometimes, it makes me feel that it’s crazy to work this hard when I see them sleeping.
― I see. I too think that cats’ gestures are cute. Are there any other gestures you like besides sleeping posture?
I love watching them squeezing to each other and stay together. When Sousuke is devoted, it makes me smile but also encouraged.
― What do you mean by devoted?
Just right after the Great East Japan earthquake and Tsunami in 2011, I was also anxious and couldn’t focus but had to work. I think Sousuke sensed how I was feeling and started to watch me work. I could tell when he got dizzy with sleepiness but he always stayed awake with me.
― Ohh, Sousuke is very brave and sweet.
(Hiromi) I was saved, too. I had to wake up every 2 hours at midnight to feed my baby during lactating. It was such a hard time but Sousuke always stayed up with me. I often said to him he could go back to bed but he never did. That was a big help to me.
― Such a sweet cat. Well, is there anything he is good at or something you can be proud of him?
(Hiromi) He can say “Mama” if you listen to hi carefully.
― Really!? That’s amazing. You must be very special to him!
(Hiromi) He is a mommy’s boy (laugh). He used to stay with me all the time before my son was born. Even now, when my boys go to bed early, he comes to me for a chance.
Sousuke feels the oldest of the boys. He can take care of the youngest.
― Could you tell me how they spend a day?
Sousuke gets up as we get up in the morning. Shizuku seems she doesn’t like boys around. She usually hides behind the closet and comes out only for meals. While the boys taking a shower and after the boys go to bed, she finally comes out to the living room and plays with Sousuke.
― What do they do when they play?
They wrestle on the floor, tag each other like chasing and play with boy’s cars or blocks. They groom each other, too.
― Anything they don’t like?
Vacuum cleaner, mop…, and the dog in my parents place. He was okay with my brother’s dog that isn’t energetic and even he was sleeping with this dog.
― If he has chemistry, he would be okay even with dogs.
I would say he would be okay with animals that are not energetic. Shizuku is energetic one so I think Sousuke is trying to keep it up with her. I don’t think he loves kids, either. It seems like he need to take good care of them because he thinks they are his brothers.
Had lots of good talk through our cats
― It just made me wonder what these two cats think of you family. What do you think?
Hmmm. Both of them love us (laugh). It seems like Shizuku need her own space and time. Sousuke, on the other hand, likes being with us. I think he thinks he is the first son in the family so it’s more like he thinks he is a human himself, not a cat.
― He is acknowledged as the first son in your family. To end the interview, could you tell me what it means to have cats in your life?
Well, I can’t think of the life without them. There was only a day that Sousuke stayed in the vet for a night. We were alone and felt something was missing at home. We were even chatting like “Were we this boring without cats?”(laugh) We were very much realized that we have lots of to talk through our cats.
We have never met such a gentle and peaceful mailman before (laugh). We have been learning that cats have characteristics and are different one to another especially since Shizuku joined in our family.
We realize how nice to have cats in the family day by day.
interview, edit Tomoko Komiyama
photo Jun Takahashi
translation Chiyoko Kimura