For sure you have happened to see a Maneki Neko, literally cat of fortune, that is the cat that greets present near the cash desk of almost all Chinese and Japanese shops or restaurants. However, the tradition is not limited to these places, as it is a lucky cat that can also be kept indoors.
The Maneki Neko is a talisman that is believed to attract good luck to its owners. Therefore, it is very common to find a Maneki Neko on display in shops, restaurants and other businesses.
In this article, we will talk about the lucky cat, the meaning of the Maneki Neko, its history and also some curiosities, such as: why is it golden? Does it run on batteries? And why is it so widespread in the East? Keep reading!
Hello Cat: Chinese or Japanese?
The origin of the lucky cat is the most controversial point of this small object as both traditions claim the origin of the golden cat that greets. Although it is better known as the Chinese lucky cat, it is actually the Japanese lucky cat. Maneki Neko, ( Maneki = who attracts, who greets; Neko = cat) in fact, is the name in Japanese, while in Chinese it is known as Zhaocai Mao.
Why are there so many people convinced that this is the Chinese lucky cat and not the Japanese one? The association probably derives from the Chinese proverb that says “if a cat cleans its face, including its ears, it will rain”.
There are two traditional Japanese tales that explain the meaning of the Maneki Neko:
According to the first legend, a rich man was caught in a storm and sought refuge under a tree near a temple. Just when he found refuge under the tree, he saw a cat that was inside the temple and that with its paw motioned him to enter. So he did, finding better shelter thanks to the kitten. As soon as he entered the temple, a lightning bolt tore the tree in half and saved his life thanks to the cat. From that moment he became a benefactor of the temple, which helped to acquire great prestige. When the cat died, he had a statue built in his honour and, over the years, took the name of Maneki Neko.
The second story is a bit sinister. Legend has it that a geisha cared more for her cat than anything else in the world. One day, the cat jumped on her, piercing the kimono with its claws. Seeing this scene, Danna (owner/husband of the geisha) thought that the cat was possessed, so with a quick movement, he cut off the poor animal’s head. The head fell on a snake that was about to attack the geisha, saving her life. However, the woman was deeply saddened by the loss of her beloved cat, so one of her clients gave her a cat figurine to comfort her.
Japanese lucky cat: Meaning
Today, the Maneki Neko figurine is common in both the East and the West to attract good luck. There are several types, each with a different meaning:
- To attract money and luck, the cat must have its right paw raised.
- To attract good guests and welcome views, he must have his left paw raised.
- You will almost never see the Maneki Neko with both paws raised. However, in this case, they symbolize the protection of the place where they are located.
Symbology and meaning also change according to color. Although we are used to seeing them almost always white or golden, there are many others:
- Greeting golden cats bring good luck to an activity (restaurant, shop, etc.).
- The white greeting cat, with orange and black details, is the traditional and original that brings luck to travellers. In general, it brings good luck to those who own it.
- The red one attracts love and drives away bad spirits.
- With the green greeting cat, you try to attract good health.
- Cat greets yellow: improvement of their economic conditions.
- The blue lucky cat helps to fulfil one’s wishes.
- Black acts as a shield against bad luck.
- The pink lucky cat will help find a partner.
Furthermore, the “power” of the good luck charm, if we can define it that way, also depends on any objects that the cat has on its paw. For example, if you have banknotes or a Goen (the 5 yen lucky coin) you are trying to attract even more money. If, on the other hand, the cat bites a carp, one hopes for plenty and luck.
Curiosities About Cats In The East
In China and Japan, it is common to see many stray cats or just walking free on the street. Moreover, according to the different oriental beliefs, cats are able to see things that we humans cannot even perceive, such as presences and spirits.
Another legend tells that a demon had to carry the soul of a person who, however, had a cat. The cat saw the demon and asked him what he intended. The latter replied that he had to take his master’s soul with him and the cat did not object, but to let it pass he challenged him to count all the hairs on his tail, one by one. The demon agreed, but when it was about to finish, the cat wagged its tail, angering the demon who started over. The cat, however, wagged its tail again. After making several attempts, the demon gave up and went away, so even on this occasion, the cat managed to save the master.
Finally, we conclude by saying that the meaning of the Maneki Neko or Japanese lucky cat is not healthy to say goodbye but to welcome and let pass. For more information simply visit our CatsBuz website.