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Shinjuku east exit cat — a new trompe-l’œil in Tokyo

Last month, a giant 4K digital cat was installed on a billboard near Shinjuku station in Tokyo. See above tweet. It was created using a 26 x 62 foot LED display, and the resulting effect is very much a trompe-l’œil. The cat looks like it’s sitting on a ledge that is carved into the side of a building.

The cat doesn’t have a name. But the New York Times has reported that locals have started to call it “Shinjuku east exit cat” because of where it is situated relative to the station. I am going to assume that this name sounds a little more endearing in Japanese.

Having spent a fair bit of time in Asia in my twenties — mainly Taipei, Tokyo, and Hong Kong — I’ve always been impressed by how playful Asian cities are with their buildings, billboards, signage, and lighting. It can make us feel overly conservative. A trip to Tokyo can be like a trip to the future.

I appreciate that most people don’t want their cities to be overrun with advertising, and that’s what billboards are usually for. It can get tacky. I get it. But sometimes it just makes sense to stick a massive 3D cat on the side of your building. It’s fun and it captures people’s attention.

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