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All of you probably know the paw-waving (or beckoning/fortune) cat, often seen in gold or white. You can find the funny thing in almost every Japanese and Chinese venue and it’s becoming more and more popular worldwide as a (kitsch) gadget for your interior. But what in gods name is the story behind this crazy object?
Maneki-Neko (Japanese: 招き猫, literally “beckoning cat”)
The Maneki-Neko is a talisman believed to bring good luck to the owner. It’s also known as the Welcoming Cat, Lucky Cat, Money Cat, Happy Cat or Fortune Cat. However, no one knows (or agrees) on how the first Maneki-Neko came to be…
There are many legends about Maneki-Neko, but these 3 are the most common:
A wealthy man took shelter from a rainstorm under a tree next to a temple. At that moment, he
noticed a cat and that cat seemed to be beckoning to him. He followed him and went inside the
temple. Shortly after, lightning struck the tree which he had been taking shelter under. Because the
cat had saved his life, the man was grateful. He became a benefactor of the temple and brought it
much prosperity. When he passed away, a statue of the cat was made by the people of the temple in his honor.
A geisha had a pet cat, which she adored. One day, the cat was hanging at her kimono and the owner of the brothel thought the cat was possessed. In response, he sliced off its head with a sword (brutal!). The flying cathead landed on a snake (which was about to strike the woman). The fangs of the cat killed the snake and saved the woman. The geisha ended up so distraught by the loss of her cat that one of her customers made a statue of the cat to cheer her up.
The Old Woman
An old woman, living in Imado in eastern Tokyo, was forced to sell her cat due to extreme poverty. Soon afterwards, the cat appeared to her in a dream. The cat told her to make a resembling statue of the cat in clay. She did as instructed and decided to sell the statue. She made more and more of them and everyone bought the statues. These “Maneki-nek”o became so popular, she soon became very rich of it.
Difference between left and right paw
If the left paw of the cat is up, it is to attract customers. If the right paw is raised, it’s for good fortune and money. Sometimes you can find a Maneki-Neko with both of its paws in the air. Those are not just for the greedy, as two paws up can also represent protection!
Different colors and symbolism
- Calico (spotted): Traditional and most common colors, considered to be the luckiest
- White: Happiness and positivity
- Gold: Wealth and prosperity
- Black: Wards off evil (spirits)
- Red/pink: Success in love and friendship
Gadgets held by Maneki-Neko
Maneki-Neko is one well-dressed kitty – usually it wears a bib, collar, and bell. In the Edo period, it was common for wealthy people to dress their pet cats this way (LOL). A bell was tied to the collar so that owners could keep track of their furry friends where up to.
A Fortune Cat is sometimes holding some other things in its paw:
- A koban worth one Ryo: this is a Japanese coin from the Edo period. A Ryo was quite the fortune back then
- The magic money mallet: if you see a small hammer, this represents wealth. When shaken, the mallet is supposed to attract wealth.
- A fish, most likely a carp: the fish is symbolic of abundance and good fortune (OK, we get it, Maneki-Neko is the answer to all your problems!)
For the good faith of our readers, every cat owner should teach his/her cat to do this: