Legend of Maneki Neko

The Maneki Neko is a figure of Japanese tradition that welcomes guests, customers, luck, and wealth. His image is found in many Japanese places of business to welcome customers and prosperity, and in homes to welcome guests and luck. In the "digital world" this timeless good luck charm can be found on websites where he welcomes Internet surfers, or dangling from cell phones as a cell phone charm.

"Maneki Neko" means, "beckoning cat" in the Japanese language. ("Maneki" = beckoning, welcoming, or inviting. "Neko" = cat.) His image usually faces the door near the main entrance. With a left paw raised he welcomes guests and customers. With a right paw raised he welcomes wealth or luck. Traditions differ on whether the cat is a male or female, but Maneki Neko is always depicted as a friendly figure. The scroll he carries bears the congenial message, "Please come in. You are welcome!"

There are many stories about Maneki Neko. One of the most popular is this:

There was once a temple in ancient Japan where a priest lived with his cat companion, Tama. The Gotoku-ji temple was not well endowed, so its priest was very poor. The priest often wished aloud to Tama that the cat could find a way to bring prosperity to the temple.

A feudal lord - some say it was Naotaka Li, lord of Hikone district - was passing Gotoku-ji when it started to rain. As the lord took shelter under a tree on the grounds, the priest's cat peeked out of the temple and raised a paw to invite the lord inside. The lord was curious about this unusual behavior and walked to the temple courtyard for a closer look. When Naotaka Li was standing in front of Tama in the courtyard, lightening struck the tree under which he had been sheltering. The lord's life had been saved, and he immediately believed the cat to be an incarnation of the Goddess of Mercy. As in all good legends, the lord was generous in endowing the temple. The figure of the "Maneki Neko" to welcome guests, luck, and wealth was born. Today, Gotoku-ji temple is home to many statues of cats.

All of the different Maneki Neko legends center around heroic or insightful cats who enrich their friends and save strangers from harm. Please come in to the world of Maneki Neko. You are welcome!