More likely than not, you’ve seen Maneki-Neko — the Japenese Lucky Cat. Maybe she was waving a paw from the front counter of your favorite Japanese restaurant or shop, in hopes that she’d bring luck and prosperity and more customers. Did you know, the cat’s color, her clothing, collar, and even what paw was raised were of special significance?
For example, a white cat is said to bring good luck and a black cat will ward off evil spirits. A gold cat, commonly seen in shops, is said to bring good fortune, whereas a pink cat is said to bring love. Does the cat have her right paw raised? That brings good luck with money. Is her left paw up? That’s for luck in the form of many customers. Maneki-Neko might wear a scarf, a bell, a coin, and each trinket she is adorned with has its own symbolism. Even the height of her paw bears a certain meaning!
So, what is the origin of the lucky cat? Well, there are many tales. One of the most popular stories is the Legend of the Gotokuji Temple. It is said that a wealthy samurai was taking shelter under a tree near the temple when he noticed the temple priest’s cat beckoning to him to take shelter inside. Just as he approached the cat, the tree he’d been sheltering under was struck by lightning.
Grateful that the cat had saved his life, the wealthy samurai gifted the temple with funding for its upkeep. When the cat died, a statue was created in his likeness, thus creating the lucky cat we know today!
Would you like to have your very own Lucky Cat? You can find Maneki-Neko’s likeness on just about anything, from jewelry to phone covers, to the classic beckoning cat statue. There is even a museum in Ohio, dedicated to the beloved Lucky Cat!