It’s no secret that I love Maneki Neko, better known in the States as the “good luck cat.” I once dressed as a Maneki Neko for Halloween! One important point to understand is that the Maneki Neko is not Chinese. I think that’s a common misunderstanding. It is actually originally Japanese, although its popularity can be seen in China as well, and also had made its way into many Chinese restaurants in the States.
Anyway, if you’re reading this and wondering what I’m talking about, I’m talking about this little cutie:
I’m sure you recognize him. I’d been interested the Maneki Neko before I ever came to Japan, so I was excited to go to Gotokuji Temple in Tokyo, where the story of the Maneki Neko originates. As with most Japanese relics and talismans, the Maneki Neko has a great story behind it. I’d recommend reading up on it at this blog, which is also where I found all the information about how to get to Gotokuji Temple.
If you don’t feel up to reading all about the Maneki Neko, I’ll give you the short version. The Maneki Neko is meant to bring luck and fortune to those who own one. That’s why you’ll typically see them in restaurants in shops–the owners are hoping for good fortune to come to their shop. The paw that is extended upward is actually a beckoning paw–in Japanese culture, you beckon by doing a motion of the hand that resembles a “shoo shoo, go away” motion to Westerners.
I really enjoyed going to the temple and looking at all the little (and huge) Maneki Neko statues. At the temple office, you can buy your own. You can either take it home, or leave it as an offering. I decided to leave mine as an offering. My cat, Shiloh, died this last year, so I decided to leave my statue in honor of her. I put it in a spot I can always remember, just in case I ever go back.
I took plenty more pictures of the Maneki Neko, so please take a look at them here.