Often seen in Asian retail shops and restaurants near the cashier, the Japanese maneki neko, is the cute little sitting cat figurine with one paw beckoning forward. Maneki means to beckon and neko is cat. Today, it’s seen as a symbol that brings good fortune. Some say if the right paw is raised, it means welcoming money and if the left paw is raised it symbolizes welcoming people. I always thought that it just meant that it welcomed people, thereby retail shops and restaurants often displayed them to attract customers. More customers equal more money, right?
The most commonly known legend of the manki neko is from the Edo period. When Ii Naotaka from the Hikone area was traveling, a cat beckoned him to the Gotoku-ji Temple. He decided to take a rest when lightning and thunder struck. Thus, he and his men were “saved” by the cat. To show gratitude, the family supported the temple and the legend of the maneki neko was born.
The popularity of the Maneki Neko continues to grow and is used as décor and charms for all occasions and all ages. To me, a welcoming attitude means an open heart. Let it remind you of these virtues and then it’s bound to bring good fortune!