Maneki Neko: The Lucky Cats of Japan

Maneki Neko: The Lucky Cats of Japan

One of Japan's most common superstitious beliefs is that of Maneki Neko, or in simpler words, the lucky cat. You would have often seen this figurine in the shops in Japan, but have you ever wondered why a ceramic cat is given so much importance? Maneki Neko is basically believed to bring fortune to its owner, so the Japanese consider it their lucky charm!

This calico Japanese bobtail figurine has one paw up in the air that gave the cat its name, i.e., Maneki Neko, which means beckoning cat if translated literally. The raised paw also imitates the Japanese beckoning gesture.

Nowadays, this small sculpture is usually made from ceramic or plastic. But back in the day, it could be found made from various materials, including wood. The luxurious replications of this cat are even made from gold or silver.

The origin of Maneki Neko goes back to the Japanese Edo period. It was first reported to be found in Tokyo, then named Edo. Some say it was first discovered in 1852, but there is no solid evidence to support this claim. Plus, there are numerous contradicting statements about its origin as well. It could be said that the exact roots of Maneki Neko are still untraced. 

The Common Features of the Lucky Cat 

On a closer inspection of the Maneki Neko, it is observed that the cat is always wearing or holding some types of ornaments which are listed down below to make spotting a Maneki Neko easier:

Neck AccessoriesA Maneki Neko is incomplete without adornment around its neck. Although you may see a variation in the types of the item the cat wears around its neck. Some common examples include bibs, bells, and collars. 

  • Koban

The cat is always holding a gold coin in one of its paws. This gold coin was used back in the Edo period and is estimated to have a worth of 1,000 USD in today's market. Some of the cats are also holding a ten million rye coin which is an incredible sum of money.   

  • Koi (fish)

The Maneki Neko holding a fish symbolizes abundance and good luck. 

  • Money Bag

A money bag is also thought to bring good fortune along with more wealth and prosperity. 

  • Drum or Fan 

The drum and fan both are believed to flourish the business and increase the income of the owner.

These are some of the most common features of the Japanese lucky cat, but there are a lot more accessories worn or held by this cat that have different beliefs and significance for many people. 

What Does the Raised Paw Signify? 

We have already been over how the Maneki Neko has one paw raised. But whether the left or the right paw is raised holds different meanings for people. In some cats, both the feet are raised too. So, what does it mean? Let's find out:

  • Left Paw: The left paw is believed to flourish a business by attracting more customers to a shop.
  • Right Paw: This paw attracts more wealth and money.
  • Both Paws: If both the paws of the Maneki Neko are raised, it is believed to invite good luck. Higher the foot, the more fortune it will invite.