FUJISAWA, Kanagawa Prefecture--A stray called Gray is now arguably the most famous cat in Japan after media coverage of its unwitting role in the arrest of an odious cat-loving computer hacker.
The cat is one of 200 or so felines that roam the island of Enoshima, a popular sightseeing destination on the Shonan coast in Kanagawa Prefecture for people making day trips from Tokyo.
Gray, so-named by islanders for its coloring, is pretty unremarkable and would have likely lived out its life in obscurity were it not for Yusuke Katayama, a computer hacker who led police on a merry chase until his arrest Feb. 10.
Katayama, 30, is suspected of using a virus to remotely access other people's computers and send threats to commit mass murder in a school and on the streets of Osaka.
He has denied the accusation during questioning by police.
Four men were falsely arrested because the threats were traced to computers they used. Police eventually had to free the men and apologize for their wrongful arrests.
Katayama also taunted police with riddles, one of which said that details of the computer virus used to send the threats were strapped to a cat living on Enoshima.
Police immediately viewed security camera footage on Enoshima. It showed the suspect attaching a pink collar on the cat. That provided clues to the computer virus used, and Katayama was quickly collared.
Gray is thought to be about 12 years old, and is often to be found snoozing by one of the 255 stone steps that lead to Enoshima's botanical gardens. The island is connected to the coast by a walkway and bridge.
Gray has become the island's most popular tourist draw, but seems unfazed by all the attention.
One recent afternoon, Gray was found curled up atop a small hill surrounded by photo-snapping tourists.
A 58-year-old company employee visiting from Ayase in Kanagawa Prefecture rubbed Gray's head and said: "You are now the most famous cat in Japan. Because of you, the suspect was arrested."
Other visitors, suddenly realizing this was the cat that all the fuss was about, quickly began recording the moment on cellphone cameras.
Reports of the arrest also featured a photo of Gray with the pink collar around its neck.
An employee of a nearby store who puts out food and drink for Gray twice a day said, "Although Gray was very strong-headed before, he has become much more even-tempered."
Gray began showing up at the store two or three years ago.
During the sweltering summer months, the employee puts out a bowl of cool milk. In winter, the employee heats the milk in a microwave beforehand.
The store employee called Gray a picky eater and said he would not touch cheap cat food. Gray loves "buri" (amberjack) caught locally.
"We thought Gray would live out the rest of his life atop the hill, so we never expected things to turn out as they have," the employee said.
The island has 375 inhabitants, and according to them, there are 200 cats living there.
Most are strays. Their numbers began increasing sharply around the mid-1980s.
Money left in a donation box set up along the path to Enoshima Jinja shrine about 20 years ago is used by local residents to sterilize cats or for other medical care.
It is not unusual for visitors to leave a 1,000-yen ($10.75) note.
One woman who has cared for the strays for many years dislikes hearing Enoshima referred to as "cat island." That's because only the strongest of the strays are able to survive.
A good number also get run over each year.
It emerged after Katayama's arrest that he used to visit a cat cafe and play with the animals.
One Enoshima homemaker who has been feeding stray cats for the past several years said: "He did not look like he was really bad. But, if he really loved cats, he would not have done something that caused such trouble for a cat."
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