What is Maneki Neko?

What is Maneki Neko?

Our Maneki Neko “Kitty” uses our school colors (green and purple) to beckon in “luck” in relationship to:

White (body): Positive things to come
Gold (bell): Prosperity
Purple (color/lantern): Creative Arts
Green (Bib/body accents): Education/Studies
(Our Maneki Neko also has the Japanese word “anime” in kanji Japanese characters) on it’s bib.

History of the Maneki Neko
The maneki-neko (Japanese: 招き猫?, literally 'beckoning cat') is a common Japanese figurine (lucky charm, talisman), usually made of ceramic in modern times, which is often believed to bring good luck to the owner. A common belief is that the left paw raised brings in customers, while a right paw brings good luck and wealth. There is meaning behind the different colors as well.  Maneki-nekousually have some sort of decoration around their neck. This can be a neckerchief or a scarf but the most common attire is a collar, bell and decorative bib. These items are most likely in imitation of what was common attire for cats in wealthy households during the Edo periodManeki-neko are sometimes depicted holding a coin; usually a gold coin called a koban (小判?) which ties into the cat's part in bringing good fortune and wealth.

Some believe the maneki-neko originated in Osaka, while some insist it was Tokyo(then named Edo).[1] While it is believed that maneki-neko first appeared during the later part of the Edo period (1603–1867) in Japan,[1] the earliest documented evidence comes from the 1870s, during Japan's Meiji era: It is mentioned in a newspaper article in 1876, and there is evidence kimono-clad maneki-neko were distributed at a shrine in Osaka during this time. An 1902 advertisement for maneki-neko indicates that by the turn of the century they were popular.[6]

Maneki-neko is the subject of a number of folktales. Here are five of the most popular, explaining the cat's origins:
The stray cat and the shop: The operator of an impoverished shop (or inn, tavern, temple, etc.) takes in a starving, stray cat despite barely having enough to feed himself. In gratitude, the cat takes up a station outside the establishment and beckons in new visitors, bringing prosperity as a reward to the charitable proprietor. Ever after, the "beckoning cat" has been a symbol of good luck for small business owners.[1]
The nobleman-warning cat: One day a luminary passed by a cat, which seemed to wave to him. Taking the cat's motion as a sign, the nobleman paused and went to it. Diverted from his journey, he realized that he had avoided a trap that had been laid for him just ahead. Since that time, cats have been considered wise and lucky spirits. Many Japanese shrines and homes include the figurine of a cat with one paw upraised as if waving, hence the origin of maneki-neko, often referred to as kami-neko in reference to the cat's kami or spirit. Depending on version, the story may cast the nobleman as one of various Japanese emperors, as well as historical characters such as Oda Nobunaga and the samurai Ii Naotaka.
The temple cat: This similar story goes that a wealthy feudal lord named Ii Naotaka was taking shelter under a tree near Gōtoku-ji temple (in Setagaya, Tokyo) during a thunderstorm. The lord saw the temple priest's cat beckoning to him and followed; a moment later the tree was struck by lightning. The wealthy man became friends with the poor priest and the temple became prosperous. When the cat died, supposedly the first maneki-neko was made in his honor.
The beheaded cat: A young woman named Usugumo, living in Yoshiwara in eastern Tokyo, had a cat, much beloved by her. One day, she had a visit from her friend, a swordsman. The cat suddenly went frantic, clawing at the woman's kimono persistently. Thinking the cat was attacking her, the swordsman severed the head of the cat, which flew through the air, then lodged its teeth into and killed a venomous snake on the support boards above, where it had been waiting to strike the woman. After the incident, Usugumo was devastated by the death of her companion, and would neither eat nor sleep. The swordsman felt guilty for what he had done and sad for the woman. He went to a woodcarver, who was called "the best in the land", who made him a carving of the cat, a paw raised in greeting. This cat image then became popular as the maneki-neko. When he gave the carving to her, she was overjoyed and lived her life again instead of suffering. A variant has the woman as a geisha, the swordsman replaced with her brothel's owner, and the wooden cat made by a client of the courtesan lady.
The old woman's cat: An old woman, living in Imado in eastern Tokyo, was forced to sell her cat due to extreme poverty. Soon afterwards the cat appeared to her in a dream. The cat told her to make its image in clay. She did as instructed, and soon afterward sold the statue. She then made more, and people bought them as well. These maneki-neko were so popular she soon became prosperous and wealthy.


Register early and pay lower pre-conference prices. Please contact us with any special needs ManekiNekoCon@prairiestate.edu.

Advisor: Rebecca Weeks, email: rweeks@prairiestate.edu