Kohaku, Poki, and Nagi lie idly by and watch the show’s star, Jun Yoshizuki, gathering fresh ingredients and vintage tools to prepare local treats. Each episode of JunsKitchen has over one million views.
What are they up to
It seems that people find these somewhat creepy videos relaxing – although that may be more due to Yoshizuki’s mindful editing and attention to detail than the feline presence.
In one video, the chef buys mushrooms from a wild mushroom farm while a cat watches on, coldly, from his bicycle basket. He cuts fresh green onions while the cats loiter nearby, purposelessly. And then he prepares homemade tofu while the three ginger critters quietly plot.
Nearly forty million people have watched “Polishing a Rusty Knife.” In this video, the cats watch intently, sometimes licking their claws, as Yoshizuki fixes up the sharp, dangerous household object.
“As soon as people got a hold of 'cat watching man cook,' people started sharing his videos everywhere,” Yoshizuki’s wife Rachel told the Washington Post.
The incessant music in the videos prevents it from becoming an ASMR experience. And while Yoshizuki’s cooking tips are clear and look delicious, it is difficult to see how forty million people tuned in just to learn to clean their knives. So, just what is the morbid fascination with these cat movies?
Watching cats learn to cook and eat
The couple, who live with their unnerving cats in Japan’s Fukuoka prefecture, work hard to make the project work. With Patreon and merchandising on the side, the YouTube project provides something like a living for Jun.
Their viewers network on Discord and in the comments section below the videos. Part of the attraction of the Yoshizuki universe is the chef’s care for the little things, such as collecting seasonal ingredients.
“The food that's in season tastes the best,” he says. “I don't consider myself a chef or talented or skilful or anything.”
But just as mesmerizing as Yoshizuki’s manner is the chance to observe, unwatched, the behaviour of his ginger predators – a Maine coon, a Norwegian forest cat, and a bitzer rescue cat – as they emotionlessly watch their owner’s delicious fingers preparing local cuisine.
Should cats ever learn to manipulate human technology and prepare their own meals, humans can be assured that they will be eaten alongside only the freshest, most authentic ingredients.