Meet 88-year-old Misao and her odd-eyed companion, Fukumaru.
The heartarming friendship between a Japanese grandmother and her beloved cat, documented in a series of photographs, has become a best-selling book in Japan and a viral sensation in the United States.
In 2003, a stray cat happened to give birth to a white male kitten in a barn on Misao Ihara's property. The cat was soon adopted into the family and became Ihara’s inseparable companion.
According to Little More Books, Ihara named the cat "Fukumaru" in hope that "the god of fuku (good fortune) would come and everything will be smoothed over like maru (circle)."
Twelve years ago, photographer Miyoko Ihara, Misao's 30-year-old granddaughter who lives with her, began taking photographs of her grandmother and Fukumaru as they went about their lives.
Despite being 88 years old, Misao Ihara still goes out to the field everyday in her hometown of Chiba to farm, and Fukumaru accompanies her, helping her with her daily tasks.
“Partly because they are both hard of hearing, my grandmother and Fukumaru are always looking into each other’s eyes. They’re really close,” Miyoko Ihara told Nippon.com. “Fukumaru is so happy and contented at my grandmother’s side. When I take a picture of the two of them together it’s like I’m photographing myself as a little girl.”
The photographs documenting their close bond were compiled into a book, "Misao The Big Mama and Fukumaru The Cat" which has taken Japan by storm. Misao Ihara believes it is because of the tranquility of life portrayed in the photographs.
“When I see the way my grandmother is living her life, I really feel that she has a kind of strength that my generation simply can’t match. She gets up with the sun, and goes to bed when it sets. She loves her cat and the vegetables in her field like her own children. If her vegetables come out well, she’s happy. She doesn’t have to worry about questions like ’what is the point of my work?’ Her way of life fills me with admiration and a sort of envy," Miyoko Ihara said.
Check out a slideshow of the inseparable pair below: