My sole squirrel sighting here

I don’t know what it is, but every person from Japan I’ve ever met has reacted to seeing a squirrel the same way most would to a celebrity.

Squirrels are extremely rare in Japan – the only time I ever spotted one in the wild was in an old city called Kamakura. I snapped the photo above mostly because I couldn’t believe how the people around me were reacting. This single squirrel attracted about twenty people to the base of the tree it was in, all with their cellphones pointing upward.

The few times I’ve gone to America with some Japanese friends, they’ve all gone crazy at squirrel sightings. I’m not sure what it is about squirrels that entrances them so much other than the fact they’re so hard to find in Japan.

I personally have memories of my grandfather guarding his birdfeeder from squirrels with a supersoaker in hand. I grew up thinking of squirrels the way many in Japan also think of pigeons – kind of annoying but a source of entertainment every now and then.

Seeing the way my friends have revered the tenacious squirrel, however, has made me see them in a new light. I think the next time I do go to America, I might end up taking too many photos of them, too.