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Japanese Cats

Japanese Cats

Cat by Satoko Hirano (c. 2008)


The way cats wash their faces licking their paws and wiping their face - it is as if they are inviting good luck beckoning with their paw. Cats with this gesture are often represented as an auspicious ornament, the Maneki-Neko (a beckoning lucky cat) in Japan. 

Historically, the cat is not indigenous to Japan and was imported from China where it was traditionally seen as a cunning shape-shifter, capable of transforming itself into many different guises. In Japan its abilities of transformations and acts were told to be beneficial, and so many legends are recorded, such as where a cat would change into human form and manage to bring money to save their ruined master. 

Maneki Neko Lucky Cat Japanese

The most popular auspicious manifestation of the cat is the "Maneki Neko" or beckoning cat. The exact origins of "Maneki Neko" and the source of its power are explained with various tales. One prevalent tale involves a poor temple in the woods. A traveller takes shelter under a nearby tree during a storm. A cat appears and beckons the traveller to follow it to avoid the storm in the temple. As soon as the traveller follows the cat, the tree and the spot he had been in are struck by lightning. Because the cat had saved him and brought him to the temple, the traveller and his family become patrons of the temple and brought it fame and wealth. Since then the cat has been a symbol of good luck.  

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