Save a cat for good luck

Neko wo tasuke un hirakeru. calligraphy by Rev. Masato Kawahatsu

猫 (Neko) means “cat.” This character’s left side represents a small animal and the right side symbolizes a rice field. Together, a cat is a creature that catches mice from the field.

助 (Tasukeru) means “help or save.” The left side represents altar offerings and the right side represents power. We give offerings to Kami/God and receive help in return.

運 (Un) means “luck.” The left side represents a road and the right side symbolizes a cart.

開 (Hiraku) means “open.” This character represents someone opening a gate with two hands.

A young man, “Mr. A,” lost his mother when he was a child and was raised by his single father. His father wished for his son to go to a college and worked hard to save money for it. Mr. A was accepted into college, but soon after his father fell ill and died. Mr. A was so depressed that he could not continue to attend school. He also did not have the funds to continue to attend, so he skipped class and began to work at a sushi restaurant to earn some income.

One of his duties was food delivery. While on one of his errands, he found a weak, dirty cat in the bushes. He felt so sorry for the cat that he brought it home, cleaned its fur and fed it. A few days passed and the cat began to regain its strength. Mr. A realized that the cat may have had an owner who was looking for it, so he took the cat and wandered the neighborhood where he had found it.

He saw a flyer with the cat’s picture and details. Mr. A went to the house and the owners, a husband and wife, were so overjoyed to be reunited with their cat.

They invited him in for dinner and over sushi, he told them about his father and schooling predicament. He was hesitant to share all this information, but they were so welcoming, that he soon felt comfortable. The husband listened carefully to Mr. A’s story. After a moment he said, “Your story about working to survive and having to leave school is very sad. I am also sorry your father passed away. We would like to financially support you so that you can finish your schooling. Please accept this as our gratitude for saving our cat and returning it to us.”

Mr. A was so shocked, but he accepted their offer with a grateful heart. He returned to school, graduated, and was able to find a wonderful job. He visited the cat and the couple often to thank them and they soon became like family to him. Because he saved the cat, his whole future shifted for the better. We also have moments in our life that can drastically shift our fortune one way or the other.

I think my wife, Alice, and I have had good fortune because we rescued our dog, Arigatou-kun, from an animal shelter. I was hesitant at first, but Alice told me that he would have been put down if we had not rescued him. He shows his gratitude everyday with his unconditional heart. Animals never forget your kindness. They are full of positivity and are a reminder to be compassionate and optimistic.

If you have an animal, what life lessons have you learned from your pet?
Rev. Masato Kawahatsu is a minister at the Konko Church of San Francisco and Konko Center of South San Francisco, who teaches shodo (Japanese calligraphy). He can be reached at or (415) 517-5563. The views expressed in the preceding column are not necessarily those of the Nichi Bei News.

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