Maneki Neko – Japanese lucky cat

Maneki Neko (in Japanese Beckoning Cat) is a traditional Japanese cat sculpture who suppose to bring good luck to the person who owns it. It is also known as Lucky Cat, Fortune Cat or Welcoming Cat. The cat breed depicted in this sculpture is usually the Japanese Bobtail. Maneki Neko is traditionally put at the entrance of a shop, restaurant etc. Maneki Neko sculpture is usually made of ceramic. There are more expensive examples made of jade or even gold.

Maneki Neko
Maneki Neko

Maneki Neko can have raised left or right paw. There are some examples of Maneki Neko where the both paws are raised. The most common belief is that the sculpture with raised left paw is going to attract customers. The one with raised right paw should bring more money. Other opinion also exists. It says that Maneki Neko with raised left paw should be put in bars or restaurants. According to this opinion the sculpture with raised right paw is for all other businesses.

There are sculptures with battery or solar powered slow-moving paws. They are usually made of plastic. Maneki Neko with higher raised paw brings more luck. Some believe that higher the paw the greater the distance from where the good fortune will arrive. Maneki Neko usually has a red collar with a tiny bell or some other decoration attached to it.

The Maneki Neko sculpture sometimes holds a special gold coin called “koban.” It used to exists during the Edo or Tokugawa Period (1603-1868). Its value was one ryō, which is the old Japanese monetary unit. The Japanese believe that the coin hold by the Maneki Neko has value of 10 million ryō. Such a sculpture is usually kept as a piggy bank.