Maneki Neko

Japanese Lucky Cat

Anyone traveling to Japan cannot help but notice the sculptures of colorful cats with one paw lifted.

Maneki Neko

They seem to be all over the place, in restaurants, shops, places of business and even in the streets. They come in all sizes and qualities.

They are always shown with a lifted paw in a beckoning position.

Most of the time only one paw is up, but occasionally both paws will be lifted. Not unreasonably these cats are often referred to as the “Beckoning Cat”.

Actually Maneki Neko is Japanese for “Beckoning Cat”. Neko is “cat” in Japanese.

The Cat That Brings Prosperity

The Japanese Lucky Cat, the Beckoning Cat is a talisman. This beckoning cat is believed to bring lots of good fortune for any who associates with it.

In shop windows the Maneki Neko will invite customers and prosperity; in restaurants the lucky cat may be responsible for many happy guests and so on.

Undoubtedly thousands of Japanese firmly believe the Beckoning Cat, Maneki Neko is good for business.

The Beckoning Cat is seen at the entrance of business as though the cat is beckoning the customers to enter.

It can also be worn as jewelry. It will protect the wearer from bad luck and pain.

The Lucky Cat is most fortunate for prosperity and many Maneki Neko are used as piggy banks. Key chains with a Lucky Cat attached to the chain are also quite common.

The Maneki Neko Legend

Gotokuji temple
Maneki Neko Cat figures at the Gotokuji Temple

There are several legends about the Beckoning Cat. Here is the most popular legend of the waving cat.

There once was a very poor monk. This monk owned a cat named Tama. He loved his cat dearly. Whatever food he had he shared with his cat. The monk and his cat lived in a small temple called Gotokuji in Western Tokyo.

One evening a terrible storm emerged.  An extremely wealthy feudal Lord happened to be on a journey and was passing the temple as a thunderstorm broke out. The feudal Lord took shelter under a tree nearby.

As he was standing there under the tree, he caught sight of a cat sitting outside the temple door. He watched the cat and his curiosity arose. It seemed the cat was waving as though it was beckoning him to come.

The Lord felt drawn towards the cat and started walking over to the temple door. As he stepped away from the tree, lighting struck and hit the exact same place as he had been standing.

The feudal Lord had no doubt that the beckoning cat had saved his life. He made friends with the poor monk.

In gratitude he donated a large sum of money to the Gotokuji temple.

The monk and his cat Tama were blessed with prosperity for the rest of their lives.

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