It’s always good to have an extra bit of luck on your side, and, according to Japanese belief, nothing can bring good luck, prosperity and wealth to your home or business quite like the Lucky Cat, also known as the Maneki-Neko.
Many stories exist explaining where this beguiling cat statue with its raised paw and its quaint dress and possessions came from, but all live in the realm of folklore rather than history.
It is said that a cat appeared to an old, homeless woman in a dream and instructed her to make lucky cat statues.
She did so, and she soon had a thriving business, could buy a house and lived happily ever after.
Another tale tells of a Japanese emperor who saw a cat waving to him, went over to visit with it and thus avoided a nasty trap that had been set for him.
No matter the story, though, the cat always represents good fortune, help and abundance.
There exists two hard facts about the lucky Beckoning Cat: it first appeared during the 17th through mid-19th century Edo period in Japanese history and it greatly resembles the Japanese Bobtail breed.
Although the Maneki-Neko comes in several different colors, the most common is the Bobtail’s calico and white, and this is also said to be the luckiest color combination.
Other Lucky Cat colors include red, gold, black, green and white, and each color will shower a different blessing on the cat’s owner.
Types of blessings include luck in love, health, happiness and the avoidance of bad luck and evil spirits, and exactly which color cat provides which type of blessing depends on the beliefs of the local people.
Maneki-Neko can be made from a number of different materials including stone, clay, ceramic, wood and plastic, and, apart from figurines, can also be found as things like piggy banks, Russian dolls, keychains and phone charms.
The figurines made of plastic often feature a hinged paw that can wave, and these are popular in small businesses and restaurants.
Each Lucky Cat will also be shown as wearing and holding certain items, including bandannas or bibs, koban coins, collars and bells, and each item will have a specific meaning.
A Beckoning Cat usually has its left paw aloft, but it can also have its right paw in the air, or even both paws.
It is also generally thought that the higher the paw, the larger the amount of luck the cat will bring, and different people have different beliefs as to what each paw being held n the air means.
Modern Lucky Cats also tend to have paws that are higher than older ones, and seeing how high the paw is held is one way to gauge a figurine’s age.
Maneki-Neko are often featured in popular culture, particularly in anime and video games, but the cat’s luck isn’t confined to children or gamers, and the Beckoning Cat blesses everyone!