Maneki Neko is literally a beckoning cat figurine common in Japan that is widely believed to bring good fortune to its owner. It is usually a calico Japanese Bobtail with a paw that is raised as if beckoning you to go closer. Some businesses even have a battery powered Maneki Neko, so that the beckoning is motorized, as if to charm customers to enter. To westerners it might look like the cat is waving, rather than beckoning, as in Asian culture the hand is held in the opposite way. This causes some confusion in Chinese and Japanese restaurants, where they can be commonly seen.
Here are five facts about the Maneki Neko lucky cat…
1. It has its origins in the Japanese Edo period
This means that it first appeared at some point between the seventeenth and mid nineteenth century. However, it is not known exactly how it came to being. There are several stories. One involves a wealthy man who took shelter from a rainstorm under a tree. He noticed a cat beckoning to him to come to the Temple. Shortly after this, the tree was struck by lightning. The man recognized therefore that the cat had saved his life. He became a benefactor of the Temple as a result and so the Temple made a statue of the cat, as they felt they had been very fortunate because of it. Another story involves a geisha who had a pet cat. One day it was tugging at her and so the owner of the brothel thought it was possessed and cut off its head with a sword. The head landed on a snake which was about to strike and it killed itself with its fangs. The girl was sad to lose her cat and so a statue was made of it. This is perhaps an unlikely story.
2. You should look closely at which paw is raised
If the left paw is raised then it is intended to attract customers. However, if the right paw is raised then it refers to good fortune and money. One could say that if you have the former then you also have the latter. Both paws up, which you often see, means both and tends to also provide protection, or so the belief goes.
3. There are meaning to all of the colors
Believe it or not, each of the different colors on the statues has a meaning:
- Red means success and good fortune in love and relationships
- Black is for preventing evil spirits from coming near
- Green is for good health
- White is for happiness and positivity
- Calico is just general luck, and is the most popular
- Gold is for wealth.
4. There is a special day for Maneki Neko Statues!
Believe it or not there is a special day dedicated to Maneki Neko – September 29th.
5. It has lots of different names
There are multiple aliases for Maneki Neko, especially when it is used in a western context. It is sometimes known as a fortune cat, lucky cat or happy cat. Sometimes also ‘money cat’ or ‘welcoming cat’, for obvious reasons.
A Maneki Neko is a great addition to your shop, especially if you have Japanese or east Asian connotations to your business. As you can see from the facts above however, this little statue has many meanings and symbolizes far more than an attraction to beckon customers through your door!