Maneki-neko is said to bring happiness (Gotokuji Temple)
There has been an increase in the number of people who have cats and cat items recently in Japan. It is said to be a boom. However, way before this recent cat boom, it was auspicious to have a “maneki-neko (beckoning cat)” ornament, which places one foot forward and makes an inviting gesture, and this became established. It is also a popular souvenir for tourists from around the world.
A mascot ornament
A maneki-neko (beckoning cat) that raises its right paw is said to bring “wealth”, whereas one that raises its left paw is said to bring “people” and “happiness”, and Japanese restaurants adorn their shops with both in the hope they bring prosperity.
In addition to the traditional white cat, colorful ones, such as pink and green ones are also being sold these days.
The wish differs depending on the color with pink being for “success of love” and green being for “academic achievement” (provided by ORNER KOIDE, a maneki-neko specialty shop)
In the desire for wealth, there have often been maneki-neko that have money from ancient Japan but, recently, blue-eyed cats that hold American dollar-type money and beckoning cat costume goods are among other products that have been created not only for Japanese but for foreign visitors.
A blue-eyed maneki-neko with dollars (provided by ORNER KOIDE, a maneki-neko specialty shop)
Maneki-neko costume goods（provided by Clearstone）
Origins traced to a cat that saved a samurai?
There are several places believed to be the origin of maneki-neko (beckoning cats). One of them is Gotokuji Temple, a temple in Setagaya-ku, Tokyo. Legend has it that a high-ranking samurai passed by Gotokuji Temple long ago and a cat invited him in, in front of the gate so he rested inside. Violent thunder jolted the skies, accompanied by heavy rainfall, which he was able to avoid it. Following that, the samurai donated a large sum of money to the temple and it was able to develop. Hence, the auspicious “maneki-neko” was born.
Currently, there are many maneki-neko lined up in Gotokuji Temple. People that believe their wishes have been granted by maneki-neko make offerings of those cats to the temple.
The exterior of Gotokuji Temple and the offered maneki-neko
Trains also have maneki-neko designs
The “Lucky Maneki-neko Train” appeared on the Tokyu-Setagaya line, which goes by Gotokuji Temple, on the 110th anniversary of its opening, in September 2017. A maneki-neko face was drawn on the front of the train, in addition to leather straps in the compartments and cat foot prints being affixed to the floors.
“Lucky Maneki-neko Train”（provided by Tokyu Corporation)
Leather straps are maneki-neko（provided by Tokyu Corporation)
Cat foot prints on the floor（provided by Tokyu Corporation)
The one-meter high maneki-neko statue, at Gotokuji station on the Odakyu Line, is a popular filming location. There are many maneki-neko related spots and shops, such as a soba noodle shop with maneki-neko design dishes and variety stores with Japanese sweets in maneki-neko shaped boxes and cat goods.
Maneki-neko statue at Gotokuji station
Japanese soba dish with maneki-neko design（Fukumuro-an）
Japanese sweets in maneki-neko shaped boxes (Tohiken)
Gotokuji Temple certified maneki-neko pouches and washcloths (Tokyo neko nakama)
Maneki-neko themed festivals
The city of Seto, in Aichi Prefecture, is abundant in good-quality clay so pottery making has been flourishing since antiquity. A massive production of maneki-neko ornaments has taken place. Hence, the “Kuru fuku maneki-neko matsuri (Festival of coming fortune and maneki-neko) in Seto,” a maneki-neko themed festival, is held there annually. They hold a “MANEKI-NEKO ART EXIHIBITION,” offer lunches in maneki-neko shaped boxes and paint maneki-neko makeup on for free at the festival.
A photo of the “Festival of coming fortune and mankei-neko in Seto”（provided by Seto City Exchange Club）
You can take a ceramic maneki-neko lunch box home（provided by Seto City Exchange Club）
Free maneki-neko makeup experience （provided by Seto City Exchange Club）
Completed maneki-neko makeup（provided by Seto City Exchange Club）
There are “fuku-neko (good-luck cat)” ornaments hidden in 29 spots in the city and it would be fun to walk and search for them, too.
“Fuku-neko” hidden in the city（provided by Seto City Exchange Club）
An exhibit of the various maneki-neko in Japan is at the nearby“Maneki-neko Museum”. There is a painting experience corner also where you can make your own maneki-neko.
An exhibit of the various maneki-neko in Japan at the “Maneki-neko Museum” (above) and a painting experience corner （provided by Seto City Exchange Club）
Please look for maneki-neko at restaurants and variety stores when you come to Japan. They are perfect for gifts to show you wish for the person receiving them to fulfill their dreams and desires and have continued health and happiness. Your kindness will be conveyed.