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The Incredible History of Japanese Lucky Cats

 by danielle on 13 May 2014 |
1 Comment(s)
A little cat with its paw raised often greets visitors to sushi shops and teppanyaki restaurants. But what are these cats for and where did they come from?
 
Know as the maneki-neko, or Japanese lucky cat, the figurines are designed to bring good luck to their owners. Typically depicting Japanese Bobtails with a calico coat, they are usually fashioned from ceramic, however the use of metals and other materials are also common. They are traditionally placed in the entrances of businesses and shops to beckon customers inside and so bring their owners prosperity.
 
The lifted paw can appear as waving to Western eyes. It is however a Japanese gesture of summoning, hence the cats’ appearance. Either the left or right paw may be raised. It is believed the type of luck the cat will bring varies with which paw is lifted. The right paw is commonly thought to bring general good luck and wealth whereas the left paw brings in customers.
 

Sometimes lucky cats come in other patterns besides calico, each tone invested with particular meaning. Whilst calico is the luckiest overall colour, red brings particular success in love, black wards off evil spirits, and green ensures good health.
 
Lucky cats usually sport a collar, bell and decorative bib around their necks. This is likely an echo of the common attire for the cats of wealthy households in the Edo period.
 
There is a fierce argument between Tokyo and Osaka as to which city was the birthplace of the maneki-neko. The final truth of the matter is unknown, though it is apparent the cats were in existence by the Meiji era, evidenced by an old newspaper article which makes reference to them, as well as records which indicate they were distributed at a Osaka shrine at the time. A surviving 1902 advertisement selling the cats proves that by the 20th century they had become popular.

 
 
A number of folktales have sprung up to explain how the lucky cat came to be such as ‘The Stray Cat and The Shop’. In the story the poor but noble shopkeeper takes in a stray cat which he cares for, despite barely having enough food to feed himself. Filled with gratitude, the cat stationed itself outside of the shop and summoned customers, transforming the shopkeeper into a prosperous man.
 
In another tale, a cat appeared to wave at a passing nobleman. Surprised, the nobleman went over to investigate. Moments later, he realised he had been about to walk into a trap that had been laid for him just ahead, and the cat had warned him away. Ever since, the cat was considered a wise and lucky spirit and became a decoration in shops and homes throughout the nation. 

Comment(s)1

asreyjnynsa - Comment
asreyjnynsa28 Apr 2015Reply
this is no history :(
my cat holly - Comment
my cat holly28 Apr 2015Reply
ya :(

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