Do you need a little extra luck? Maneki Neko could be just the cat for you. You’ve probably seen this lucky kitty adorning the window and counters of local businesses (especially Chinese or Japanese-themed businesses).  They are very popular in Asian countries – even sitting pretty at temple shrines. Want to test your knowledge about Maneki Neko? Take our quiz and then read below to learn more!

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Maneki Neko: The Cat with Many Tales

How much do you know about the Japanese lucky cat, Maneki Neko? Keep reading to take our quiz and learn more about the history of the “beckoning cat.”

Photo Credit: gaelx via Flickr

Maneki Neko is believed to have originated during Japan’s Feudal Age (1185 AD – 1868 AD). This kitty is still very popular in Japan (inspiring the famed cartoon cat, Hello Kitty) and has become popular in China as well. There is no true documentation of any real event which resulted in the creation of Maneki Neko. However, many folklore style accounts of the cat that inspired Maneki Neko exist.

Origin Tale #1: Almost Electrified

In the midst of a long journey, a samurai leader decided to sit and rest under a tree belonging to a run-down temple. Looking toward the temple he saw a cat (named Tama) beckon him with her paw. Curious about the little cat, he got up and went to get a closer look at the cat.

How much do you know about the Japanese lucky cat, Maneki Neko? Keep reading to take our quiz and learn more about the history of the “beckoning cat.”

Photo Credit: Martijn Nijenhuis via Flickr

No sooner had the samurai leader walked over to Tama then a bolt of lightning crashed down striking the tree he had just been sitting under. The samurai credited Tama with saving his life and donated money to the temple. From that time on the temple was prosperous.

In a similar tale, a leader is called to come into the Gotokuji Temple by a cat just before it begins to rain. Thankful that he didn’t get wet, he gives donations to the temple and restores it. He goes on to create a second temple on the grounds called the Shobyo Temple and makes the cat the god of that temple calling it Shobyo Kannon. People would come and leave Maneki Neko as offerings at the Shobyo temple when their wishes came true.

Origin Tale #2: T.M.I.

Japan went through a time of economic isolation (no trade with other countries and very few outside visitors). During this time brothels and places of male entertainment were marked with representations of male genitalia. When Japan decided to move away from isolationism, their new western visitors were a bit embarrassed by the sight of male genitalia blatantly displayed in public.

Western visitors had the potential of bringing a lot of new money into Japan. Wanting to make friends with the newcomers, they replaced the statues of male genitalia with something a little more palatable. Maneki Neko was a cute substitution that still had a subtle phallic symbol – one raised arm.

Origin Tale #3: In Your Dreams

An old woman in the Tokyo area became so poor that she could not afford to keep her beloved pet cat. The old woman was terribly distressed by having to part with the cat. She let the cat go in great sorrow.

The woman had a very difficult time sleeping that night. As she finally drifted off, the cat came to her in a dream. The cat told her that she could be happy again if only she would make a doll of the cat.

When the old woman awoke, she began creating ceramic dolls in the likeness of her cat. These dolls were loved by all the people that came across them and the old woman decided to sell them. The sales of the dolls brought her much fortune and of course the happiness of seeing her cat everywhere she goes.

Origin Tale #4: Oh My Geisha!

How much do you know about the Japanese lucky cat, Maneki Neko? Keep reading to take our quiz and learn more about the history of the “beckoning cat.”

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Late one night at a brothel, a geisha awoke to use the bathroom. A cat stopped the geisha before she could get to the bathroom by pulling on her robe. When one of the men at the brothel saw this, he believed the cat was attacking her.

The man drew his sword and lopped off the cat’s head which flew through the air. The head landed so that it was biting a snake that was perched on the toilet waiting to attack the geisha. It upset the Geisha that the cat was killed while trying to protect her, so the man made a wooden statue of the cat in the geisha’s honor.

Symbolism: What Does It All Mean?

How much do you know about the Japanese lucky cat, Maneki Neko? Keep reading to take our quiz and learn more about the history of the “beckoning cat.”

Photo Credit: leo gonzales via Flickr

Maneki Neko is a symbol of luck, fortune, and prosperity. It is dressed as a pet of the wealthy elite would have been dressed during the Edo period. It has a gold coin around its neck and often holds coins and jewels all of which represent wealth.

If the right paw is raised, it invites money; If the left paw is raised, it invites people. When both paws are raised, it invites both money and people.

In Japan, the “palm” of the cat is showing to represent beckoning in Japanese culture. Exports of Maneki Neko show the top of the hand rather than the palm to better represent what western countries see as beckoning. There are also those who say that the higher the arm is, the more luck that the Maneki Neko brings. Others say that the higher the arm is, the further distance your luck will come from.

Adding color to Maneki Neko is a slightly newer practice. The calico colored Maneki Neko is the luckiest. It is possible that this is because of how rare it is to see a calico colored Japanese Bobtail cat (the type of cat Maneki Neko is formed after). As one might expect, all white represents goodness and purity. An all black Maneki Neko wards off evil. Gold represents money and fortune. Shades of red represent love and relationships.

Do you have a Maneki Neko statue?