This went 'round the Net a while ago: In the 1980s, dressing up cats in detailed costumes, called Unlickable Nameneko (or the slang Namennayo or "Don't Lick Me") was all the rage, and it all started with a young man named Satoru Tsuda:
Spring, 1980. A young Japanese man by the name of Satoru Tsuda finds an abandoned kitten at the dry cleaners next door to his home in Nagoya and takes it in, even though he doesn't like cats. He names it "Matakichi", after the dry cleaners. One day, as the kitten is playing with some doll's clothes in the house, Tsuda notices that they are the same size ...
The next year, a poster of Matakichi appears, dressed up like a "Tsuppari", or Japanese delinquent, in an unbuttoned school uniform with rolled-up sleeves, white t-shirt and belt. His motorcycle antenna banner doesn't display the Rising Sun but a Rising Cat, with the phrase "All Japan Fast Feline Federation -- You Won't Lick Us !" The craze takes off instantly.
Starting from Kyoto, the mecca of cool in Japan, posters and cards of the cats spread to just about every home and office in the country. The "Kitten Without A Cause" image captures the imagination of the Japanese people, who live in a somewhat polite and perhaps repressed society. About 500 different items are produced, including books, watches and panties (I want some ! And yes, I would wear them ...), and over 8 million posters and 12 million drivers license cards are sold, much to the chagrin of the police who asked that the "deceptive contents" be changed. Pundits and professors analyzed the fad, while the Prime Minister's Office adopted a cat character mascot. Speculation about how they got the cats to stand upright drew debate and protests from animal rights groups. Then, not even six months later, the fad died out as quickly as it started, but not before making Tsuda a wealthy man.