Jan
29
2012
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Maneki Neko figure

Today I want to introduce “Maneki neko figures” to you as they’re very popular in Japan.

I love cats and it breaks my heart that I haven’t had one ever since moving to Japan. Most apartments don’t allow pets and my current shoebox (= 1 room apartment! smilie) would be too small anyways.
Yet Japan is a great country for cat lovers, especially if you want to obtain cute cat items!
One of the most popular items is without a doubt the “Maneki Neko” (招き猫), also often refered to as “Lucky Cat“.

Japanese people believe that the Maneki Neko figures will bring good fortune to their owners.
While figures are the most common “Maneki Neko” item, there are also key chains, cellphone straps and many other items!
Some people mistakenly think that the “Lucky Cat” has its origin in China, but it’s in fact Japan!

 

The paws of a Maneki Neko figure:

One interesting feature is the gesture!
Usually the “Lucky Cats” have one paw up in order to beckon good fortune.
There are different believes concerning what each hand will actually “do”.
I think most commonly it’s believed that the right paw up brings good luck and health while the left hand up is supposed to bring in customers.
Thus, you’ll find the latter version in front of shops or restaurants sometimes.

maneki neko figure

In the photo above you see one of my MANY Maneki Neko figures.
Here, the cat has both paws up. This is less common, but to me it seems that’s the ultimate fortune beckoning!

A lot of maneki neko figures are actually used as “piggy bank“!
Some figures also have a coin in their paw. It’s called “koban” (小判), not be confused with “kouban” (交番, police post).
Koban coins were used during the Edo Period. The one the “Maneki Neko” is holding is usually worth a lot!

Something I found really interesting is that “neko ni koban” (猫に小判, koban to cats) basically means the same as “pearls before swine“!
I always wanted to know the equivalent for it, so when I found out it has to do with cats in Japanese, I was really amused.
Hey, wow, you’re even learning some Japanese through me! *g*

Japanese people really seem to love cats!
There are even cat shrines and the famous “Cat Island“! Oh, and let’s not forget about the cat cafes!
And there’s also the all so famous “Hello Kitty“, of course.

Yet, I get the impression that real cats don’t have such a nice life in Japan. There are a LOT of stray cats and they look very “shabby”.
Although I don’t have any numbers, I’m pretty sure that most Japanese people have rather dogs than cats as a pet.
One of my co-workers even HATES cats! She can’t even look at a cute kitten photo!

What’s your impression of how cats are treated in Japan?
Do you like “Maneki Neko figures”? Do you own any?

I have a huge selection and might post some more of my figures in the future! :D

Thanks for reading!~

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