Japan to Jersey: the Okinawans

Japan to Jersey: the Okinawans

Pikachu in Okinawa, by AmandaOnce upon a time, Mango held the honor of having traveled farther than any other cat to get to Tabby’s Place.

Sure, Mango’s home state of Arizona is about 2,000 miles from Ringoes, NJ. But in comparison with Okinawa, Japan…well, we can practically see Arizona out the sanctuary windows. I promised I’d tell the full story of the Okinawa kids, and today I make good on that promise.

Kimiko in Okinawa, by Amanda Nemeth
Kimiko in Okinawa, by Amanda Nemeth

Sorry, Mango, but you’ve met your match: it is nearly 8,000 miles from Okinawa, Japan to Ringoes, NJ. For a young Marine (who, for reasons that will immediately become clear, shall hereafter be known as Hero Marine), no distance was too far to save three lives.

In 2009, the active duty United States Marine began feeding a mother cat and her kittens outside his apartment. Hero Marine was devastated when his housing agency ordered him to stop feeding the felines. Each day the cats grew weaker, and Hero Marine could not live with their starving to death. Determined to save the cats, he donated $1,000 – an extraordinary sum for a young serviceman – to have the cats rescued, sterilized and given medical treatment.

Miyagi in Okinawa shortly before his flight to NJ, by Amanda Nemeth
Miyagi in Okinawa shortly before his flight to NJ, by Amanda Nemeth

Alas, the felines were still in grave danger. The shelter housing the cats was to be demolished in mid-2010, at which time the cats would be euthanized by mass gassing.

Hero Marine contacted the Okinawan American Animal Rescue Society (OAARS), and the American Military community raced to the rescue. Volunteers led by OAARS president Miyahira San and Americans Amanda and Andrew Nemeth contacted the cats’ only hope of a long-term refuge: Tabby’s Place.

Even among many OAARS members, it was considered unlikely that Tabby’s Place could possibly want frightened cats from half a world away. But, as a sanctuary for felines in hopeless situations, we had never restricted cats based on age, personality, medical need, or distance. That promise wasn’t about to change with our first international rescue.

Following a flurry of activity on both sides of the Pacific, plans were made for the three lucky cats to make their trip to safety. On April 24th, the tabbies braved a 34-hour flight, and were welcomed into the loving arms of Danielle and Jess, who picked them up at JFK International Airport. We couldn’t help but honor the cats’ Japanese heritage – and their remarkable American and Okinawan rescuers – by naming them Miyagi, Kimiko and Pikachu.

Pikachu at Tabby's Place, by Danielle
Pikachu at Tabby's Place, by Danielle

All three cats are now healthy, growing in confidence, and available for adoption here at Tabby’s Place (where, as you know, they live in “Suite Marmalade” with Steve, Dobro, Willie and Valencia). Their mother, Katana, has been taken in by OAARS volunteers Amanda Nemeth and Air Force Staff Sergeant Andrew Nemeth, stationed at Kadena AFB in the 18 EMS squadron.

For three very lucky cats – not to mention all of us grateful human beans – it’s all a sweet reminder that our Military community does much more than keep us safe.

PS: Jess and the cats created a surprise for you. Click here. 😀

6 thoughts on “Japan to Jersey: the Okinawans

  1. YAY to our Hero Marine…to Jess and Danielle for the trek to the airport and the safe return of these beautiful three to Tabby’s Place (and the unbelieveably awesome accompying video!) — I had the distinct privilege of seeing these babies today while visiting Tabby’s Place and they are even more beautiful in “purrson”. I do not have the words to express the gratitude I have for everyone involved in this amazing rescue!

  2. A truly wonderful story, THANKS MARINE, this is another reason to always be proud of our armed forces, I know that things like this do happen around the world but they seem to go unnoticed. Best of luck to the Japanese threesome.

  3. Kimiko, Miyagi, and Pikachu are gorgeous. I think they deserve some serious sushi snacks after spending 34 hours in a plane! And to both the Nemeths and Miyahira San at OAARS, domo arigato!

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