Living with cats means sometimes living with mice. I live surrounded by fields and woods so it is inevitable that my indoor cats will sometimes, somehow, find them in my basement. Usually they bring them into my bedroom at night. Alive. (One of my cats gave me a look like, “Well, if you have a pet, why can’t I?” And even took a nap with his “pet.”)
Though I never saw any nezumi in my home in Japan, we sometimes heard noises in the ceiling above us. My husband would laugh and say “nezumi no undōkai.” It’s kind of cute to imagine it that way, isn’t it?
Curiously, it seems that there is not usually a distinction drawn between rats and mice in Japan. There’s one word—nezumi—that covers both of them. This used to baffle me. But, when I asked, people would just shrug and say that a rat was an ookī nezumi. For the record, I do not think rats are cute so it does make a difference for me and I’m glad we make that distinction in English!
When I had my daughter and began to collect ehon for her I found that kawaii mice were often featured. One of my favorites was a series featuring a kazoku of 14 mice. I was instantly charmed by the asagohan story. And I’m very happy these have been translated into English. I highly recommend them if you have a child in your life! The author is Kazuo Iwamura.
- nezumi – ねずみ mouse or rat
- nezumi no undōkai – ネズミの運動会 literally “a field day for mice” or a sports event for mice. Undōkai are a whole other topic and they happen in the fall, most popularly at the elementary school level.
- ookī – 大きい big, adjective
- ehon – 絵本 picture book
- kawaii – 可愛い If you use one word to translate it, it is “cute.” But it is simply so much more and has unique parameters which is probably why it has been exported from Japan in reference to manga, Hello Kitty goods, etc.
- kazoku – 家族 family
- asagohan – 朝ご飯 breakfast