Maneki-Neko (Lucky Cat)

Maneki Neko or Lucky Cat in English is a figurine that the Japanese believe brings fortune and wealth to their owners. Maneki Neko is a little cat with a raised paw sitting on its haunches. Maneki Neko literally means beckoning cat in Japanese and is supposed to bring customers into your store, which is why you see Maneki Neko figurines in front of lots of stores in Japan.

Maneki Neko Legend and Stories

There are many versions of this legend, but most agree that the story originated in the Edo Period (1603 -1867) of Japan.

Gotokuji Temple in Tokyo:

In this version of the tale, a poor monk who took care of the Gotokuji Temple had a cat he loved. The monk shared his food with the cat even though he could hardly feed himself. The monk asked the cat to bring fortune to their small temple.

One summer day a samurai took shelter from a storm under a tree near the temple. He noticed a cat at the temple sitting on his haunches waving a paw, beckoning him. He was so struck by this unusual sight, he got up and headed toward the temple. Just as he reached the temple lightning struck the tree he had been sitting under, causing a large branch to fall on the spot he had been sitting.

The samurai was so grateful that the cat saved his life, he decided to become the benefactor of this poor, small temple. The samurai turned out to be very wealthy and from that day forward fortune shined on the small temple and the legend of Maneki Neko was born. 

Variation 1: In some tellings of this story it was a group of samurai on horses. The horses were left under the tree and were killed or injured by the lightning.

Variation 2: In this variation the cat is named Tama and it is a feudal lord instead of a samurai. The feudal lord in some versions was Naotaka Li, lord of Hikone district. The lord believes Tama is the incarnation of the “Goddess of Mercy”. 

Variation 3: The temple is replaced by a poor shop or restaurant.

Stray Cat and Shop:

In this version a starving stray cat is taken in by the owner of an impoverished shop (tavern, inn, temple). In gratitude the cat stands outside the shop and beckons customers into the shop. This unusual site brings the shop lots of customers and prosperity.

Old Woman in Extreme Poverty: 

There was once an old woman who was so poor she had to sell her cat. One night the cat comes to her in a dream and tells the woman to make clay statutes in its image and sell them. The old woman does so and finds many people want these statutes. This lifts the old woman out of poverty.

Lucky Cat Raised Right or Left Paw?

Lucky Cats can be found with either their left or right paw raised and in some cases both paws are raised. Lucky Cats with their left paw raised are said to bring customers into your place of business. While Lucky Cats with their right paw raised brings wealth. When both paws are raised it supposed to bring both customers and fortune. Another interpretation of both paws raised is that this Lucky Cat provides protection. 

Westerners may incorrectly interpret the waving of Lucky Cats’ paw as a symbol of goodbye, but in Japanese waving your hand while closing you your fingers means welcome of come here.

Chinese Lucky Cat

The Chinese have embraced the Lucky Cat from the Japan as their own, which is why some people are confused that Lucky Cat is Chinese. People have noted that the motion made by Lucky Cat is similar to cat washing it face. In Chinese culture there is an old proverb that if a cat washes it face it will rain. Since customers will want to escape the rain, they enter the shops. This may be the origin of the Lucky Cat tale. 

Around early 800 C.E. a Chinese author wrote "If a cat raises its paw over the ears and washes its face, then patrons will come" according to Wikipedia. Also statues of cats washing their ears have been found in China dating as far back as 400 C.E. Although they look a lot different than modern Lucky Cats. 

Lucky Cat Color Meanings

Lucky Cats come in a variety of colors. These colors are not so that your Lucky Cat matches the color scheme of your décor. Each of these colors has a specific meaning. 

White: This cat brings happiness and fortune. 
Black: A black Lucky Cat will drive away evil spirits. 
Gold: Not surprising gold Lucky Cats are supposed to bring wealth and prosperity.
Calico: This is traditional and most common Lucky Cat and is for general luck. 
Pink: Brings good luck in love and relationships.
Red: This cat brings good health.
Green: This cat improves your mental abilities and protects your wife. 

Japanese Lucky Cat Where to Place in Home

According to lore your Maneki Neko needs to be placed in the wealth area of the house. If you have a home office then your Lucky Cat should be in this room. The best position for your Lucky Cat is in the southeast corner of the house or the home office.

Chinese Lucky Cat Where to Place in Office

As explained above, Lucky Cat is Japanese not Chinese, although it has been completely embraced by the Chinese. Ideally, your Maneki Neko needs to be placed where customers enter your business. If this is not possible, then it is suggested that it be placed in the northeast corner of the business.

Maneki Neko (Lucky Cat) Day

September 29th is Maneki Neko day which is different than Cat Day in Japan. Cat Day is celebrated on February 22. Apparently the numerals 2/22 in Japanese sound a little like the sound a cat makes. 

Lucky Cat Japanese Bobtail 

Maneki Neko is modeled on the Japanese Bobtail. This domestic cat has a natural mutation that gives it its distinctive bobbed tail. The Japanese Bobtail is one of the oldest domestic breeds with writings describing them 1000 years ago.

Want You Own Lucky Cat?

Made in Japan Lucky Cat 6.3'' Tokoname Porcelain White Maneki Neko Right Hand

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This is “real” porcelain Lucky Cat from one of the main regions where porcelain, instead of plastic, Lucky Cats are made in Japan. Customers seem to really like the quality of this Lucky Cat.

Delaman Maneki Neko Solar Powered Lucky Cat Waving Arm, Fortune Cat (White)

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If you want a more modern version of Lucky Cat this one has a waving arm and is solar powered. This model does appear to make some noise while waving its arm. 

Mini Maneki Neko - Set of 6

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If you want to make sure you have all your bases of luck covered with your Lucky Cat, then this set of six may be perfect for you.

Maneki Neko: The Tale of the Beckoning Cat Kindle Edition

CLICK HERE to view on Amazon

Here is a picture book of the tale of Maneki Neo that you can read to kids or grandkids and bring luck to both of you. 

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