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The Day of Maneki Neko, Japanese beckoning cat

September 29 is the official day of Maneki Neko in Japan. This cute cat can be seen at the entrances of many stores and restaurants. Some of the cats are motionless, while others move their paw back and forth energetically. The difference between the paws is significant. Some people believe that the left paw of the Maneki Neko invites customers, while the right paw invites wealth and good luck.

Maneki Neko

Beckoning cat at a cafe on Iriomote Island, Okinawa

I wasn’t surprised to see Maneki Neko when I came to Japan because I had seen them at sushi restaurants and other stores abroad. It was interesting to discover that the golden beckoning cat comes from China, and that the traditional Japanese Maneki Neko is white and has a calico Japanese bobtail. It was nice to find out that the Maneki Neko wasn’t imported from China, rather it was taken to China from Japan. Apparently, calico cats are almost always female because of some chromosome peculiarity. Does that mean that Maneki Neko is usually female too? The cat on the right is calico, or tricolor.

Cats in Chousenji Temple, Meiji-Jingumae

Moreover, different colors of Maneki neko have different meanings. For example, white is lucky in general, pink is said to attract love (actually, it does not, but who cares) and gold brings financial luck. Black Maneki Neko attract excellent health and drive away bad spirits.

If you want to immerse yourself in the world of beckoning cats, definitely go to Gotokuji Temple (豪徳寺) in Setagaya Ward. Each of the numerous figurines was offered by visitors as a gratitude for a wish come true. If you do not feel like searching in the middle of a residential area with no other interesting spots, check out Chosenji (長泉寺) in Shibuya. It is only a few minutes’ walk from Meiji-Jingumae Station. It has a very weathered statue of a Maneki Neko Jizo and a few real cats on the premises as well.

Maneki Neko

A group of Jizo with Maneki Neko Jizo

Maneki Neko Jizo

A close-up of Maneki Neko

Also, you can see a huge cat Jizo at Jishoin temple (自性院) in Shinjuku, Tokyo. In the mid-Edo period a wealthy merchant lost a child, and he installed a big cat Jizo there in order to pray for the poor kid’s soul.

Information

Chousenji Temple
Address: Tokyo, Shibuya Ward, Meiji-Jingumae 6-25-12
Access: a short walk from Meiji-Jingumae Station or JR Harajuku Station.
Open: 10 AM – 17 PM
Official website: http://www.chousenzenji.com/
Distance from airport: About 75 km from Narita Airport.

Article by Olga Kaneda

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