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Maneki Neko

The Maneki Neko is a stylized cat with one paw raised in the air. It is traditionally a Japanese lucky charm which brings prosperity. Many Japanese shopkeepers display these cats, usually with their left paw in the air.

As with most folk beliefs, it is hard to find the true origin of the Maneki Neko tradition.

Because the tradition of the Maneki Neko is a folk belief, it has been changed over time and adapted to local beliefs and customs.

There are several different folk tales regarding the Maneki Neko. Visit the Maneki Neko Club to read three different legends.

Of these different stories, the legend of Goutokuji temple, seems to be the most popular. According to this legend a samurai and lord Naotaka Ii was beckoned by a cat, while seeking cover from the rain in front of a rundown temple. As he walked toward the cat, a bolt of lightning struck the ground where he had been. The cat, named Tama, belonged to the temple's priest and had saved his life. In reverence Naotaka became a patron of this temple and appointed it to be the Ii's families temple. The rundown temple was renamed Goutokuji and became very prosperous. The Maneki Neko honors Tama.

Because of the elusiveness of folk beliefs, the meaning of the raised paw means different things to different people.

According to information from the Maneki Neko Club, a raised left paw invites customers and people and a raised right paw invites wealth and good fortune. Furthermore, the higher the paw, the more inviting the cat is. Paws range in height from the mouth to above the ears.

Another belief is that cats with a raised left paw should be displayed at businesses and ones with a raised right paw should be displayed in homes.

A more commercialized belief is that a raised left paw is for display in restaurants and a raised right paw is for display in shops.

The paw is not the only part of the cat which carries different meanings.

The color of the cat also carries different meanings.

According to information from the Maneki Neko Club, the tri-colored cat (see picture above, left) is the most popular. This is due to the fact that a tri-colored cat is a genetic rarity, and therefore highly prized.

Some other beliefs are that the white cat invites happiness and the black cat protects from illness or is a talisman against evil. Of the more trendy colors the golden cat brings wealth, the pink cat brings love, and the green cat brings sucess in education.

This mysterious cat is charming people all over the world. While their origin is Japanese, they have become popular outside of Japan as well.

Send a Maneki Neko Good Luck e-Card!

Sources:

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