What’s The Story Behind Japan’s Lucky Cats?

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The maneki-neko (招き猫, lit. ’beckoning cat’) is a common Japanese figurine which is often believed to bring good luck to the owner. In modern times, they are usually made of ceramic or plastic.

The Legend Of The Japanese Lucky Cat


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!

Maneki-neko come in different colors and styles and vary in degrees of detail. Common colors are white, black, red, and gold. In addition to statues, maneki-neko can be found in the form of keychains, piggy banks, air fresheners, pots, and numerous other media. The figurines are often displayed in shops, restaurants, pachinko parlors, dry cleaners, laundromats, bars, casinos, hotels, nightclubs, and other businesses, generally near the entrance. Some maneki-neko are equipped with a mechanical paw which slowly moves back and forth.

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