These are the amazing things you can do in Japan on Cat Day

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Cats crowd the harbour on Aoshima Island in the Ehime prefecture in southern Japan February 25, 2015Image source, Reuters

Are you a cat person? If so, Japan is the place to be on 22 February because this is when Cat Day is celebrated.

Now in its 30th year, Cat Day has lit up Japanese social media with endless portraits of ...cats as well as cat-themed doughnuts, cat-shaped biscuits, cat manga, cats staring soulfully out of windows, kittens mewing expectantly and so on. On this day it is Japan's hugest trend on social media.

What happens on Cat Day?

Known as "Neko no Hi", it was chosen because the date's numerals, 2/22 (ni ni ni), are pronounced fairly closely to the sound a cat makes in Japan (nyan nyan nyan).

You can play tricks on your cat

This Twitter user pranked a sleeping pet cat which woke up to find itself buried under an avalanche of toy mice

Image source, Twitter
Image source, Twitter / @HirokiAsai_0201
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Another user felt the need to get close to his pet on Cat Day

You can dress up as a cat

Image source, Twitter / @yancoromarch
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One famous cosplayer who donned cat ears was Yancoromarch

Enthusiasts of cosplay, the art of dressing up like animated characters, posted pictures of themselves dressed as cats, or wearing "nekomimi" (cat's ears).

You can make food look like cats

Image source, Twitter / @_HO_TA_TE_
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Some have celebrated by making cat-shaped food, like rice balls

You can monetise cats

Over the years the day has become a commercial success, with shops and businesses releasing cat-themed items.

Image source, Twitter / @ikumi_mama
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Ikumi Mama, a bakery known for producing animal-shaped pastries, released a special set of cat doughnuts
Image source, Twitter / @nekokeizai
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Kaldi Coffee Farm, which sells coffee and imported foods, released a special cat-themed bag for the day, including tea, biscuits and a calendar

Disney in Japan declared the day to be "Marie Day," after the young female character from the Aristocats, while newspaper Asahi Shimbun marked the occasion with a special report from one of Japan's cat cafes, where you can sit for an hour or two in the company of numerous pampered and purring moggies.

Image source, Twitter/ @bonjour_licca
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Japan's answer to Barbie, Licca-chan, added her take on the day with a catty outfit

How did it start?

The event began in 1987 after an Executive Cat Day Committee polled cat-lovers across Japan and decided that February 22 should be Cat Day.

Other countries also have days to celebrate cats, but few marked with as much enthusiasm as Japan's.

Some of Japan's celebrity cats

A cat called Tama made headlines after becoming honorary stationmaster of a train station in Wakayama prefecture. Wearing a special cat-sized stationmaster's hat, she was a popular tourist attraction until her death in June 2015.

Tama was duly inducted into a hall of fame for the station's train line in February 2016.

Image source, AFP/Getty Images
Image caption,
Tama pulled in fans and tourists till her death last year

Meanwhile, a cat called Maru became an internet sensation with a series of YouTube videos. The videos have had huge viewing figures since 2008, with one early film gaining 21.7 million views.

And then there's Nyancat - the internet meme which features a flying cartoon cat, creating an infinite rainbow through space, set to the sound of Hatsune Miku, a "vocaloid" human-sounding synthesiser.

The original video has been viewed 131 million times.

This is probably the day to clear up a common misconception about the global phenomenon that is Hello Kitty - the white cat without a mouth first unveiled by Japanese company Sanrio in the 1970s. Not a cat, but a girl and actually British to boot.

Image source, AP
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Hello Kitty now has her own Madame Tussauds wax figurine in Hong Kong

But what if you're not a cat person?

Fret not. This day, 22 February, is also Ninja Day in Japan (another play on 'two' being pronounced as 'ni').

Koka city in Shiga prefecture is one of the better known places to celebrate this occasion, with town hall staff dressing as elusive assassins for the day.

Image source, AFP/Getty Images
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Officials in Shiga dressed up in ninja costumes last year to promote ninja tourism

Reporting by Jordan Allen, a freelance journalist in Tokyo.