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Maneki Neko

Discover the Maneki Neko this Japanese cat that will bring you luck. This magnificent statue with its raised left paw will welcome you and bring you happiness and luck.

Maneki Neko Meaning

The Maneki Neko (literally “Waving Cat”), often made of papier-mâché or ceramic, is culturally and contextually correct in its gesture, but it often baffles foreign visitors the first time they encounter it, as it seems to be seated with one leg raised in a gesture of farewell.

It is important to note that the Maneki Neko are depicted with the right or left paw raised, although sometimes both are shown raised. Typically placed on a shelf facing the entrance of an inn, restaurant, or home, business owners use them as lucky charms to attract customers and their money.

Cat Maneki Neko
Money box Maneki Neko

Other hand signs

In one culture a thumbs-up may indicate good, or in a second time it represents the desire to be lifted freely, in a third it is an extremely rude gesture (equivalent to flipping a bird someone), in a fourth, it represents the number one. Putting the tip of the thumb and index finger together can indicate a zero, money, delicious, a degrading slur based on human anatomy, or the number three (with emphasis on the other three fingers surveys), depending on where you are in the world.

The satanic horned salute of rock concert goers (with clenched fist and extended index and little finger like horns) can be seen well in this context, and has a positive meaning in India too, to ward off evil , but in parts of Mediterranean Europe and their colonial offshoots, it is short for a cuckold to be “your wife is cheating on you”.

The “two-finger salute”, with the palm outward and the first two fingers raised to form a V, is perhaps what most Japanese children do to represent “peace” when they pose to stand. to be photographed, but here it is derived from the “we won” victory symbol of the American occupying forces; however, in some Anglo-Saxon regions the very similar salute with the palm facing inwards is as rude as it gets.

The raised hand, palm outward, all fingers spread, may be used to indicate “stop” in some cultures, in others it suggests “talk to the hand”, but in still others it is as rude as it sounds, and the answer may be a punch in the nose. In the West, when trying to beckon someone, for example, the “come here” gesture consists of using a flat fist, palm up and beckoning by moving the first finger. A less seductive or less aggressive usage may involve the use of all four fingers, but in parts of Southeast Asia this gesture is deeply insulting. Savvy travelers keep their hands to themselves when talking – at least until they know the local customs.

Maneki Neko Large

Gestures are a trap for unsuspecting people. This beautiful ceramic Maneki Neko wearing a kimono is now saying goodbye, as it might be interpreted in the West, but instead he is beckoning inwards trying to attract good fortune and money in a store.

Maneki Neko Japanese Cat

A simple waving cat adorns a shelf in a restaurant. Another index of the superstition of the Japanese  : the belief that it attracts money.

Body language in Japan differs remarkably from that of other countries and there are pitfalls here too for the unwary. One of the most common Japanese gestures comes not from a person, but from a cat! Cats in Japan belong to a specific and recognizable breed, the living Japanese Bobtail, which has a short tail more like that of a rabbit than other cat breeds. In fact, the living Japanese Bobtail, which is very popular in calico (white with mostly black or orange spots), and may be outnumbered by its iconic shape, the Maneki Neko brings good luck.

The calling gesture here involves a raised hand (or paw), with the palm outward and the fingers curled down, and that’s exactly what every Maneki Neko does some are even powered by electricity and have a leg that moves! Look for the Maneki Neko at the entrance to businesses, restaurants, shops, etc.

Maneki Neko Porcelain

A tastefully decorated Maneki Neko, left paw raised, is poised to attract customers. The Maneki Neko waves to the cat. Coming in all shapes and sizes, this no longer beckoning ‘cat’ shows a smug smile, perhaps a sign that the deal has been done successfully.

Some believe that a Maneki Neko with the left paw raised attracts customers, while another with the right paw raised attracts good fortune and money; some, however, associate the raised left paw with bars and pubs, and the raised right paw with shops of other types. The question is all the more confused because, in each case, some people think the opposite. This is the reason why some establishments use the Maneki Neko with both legs raised to avoid confusion and attract all kinds of luck, for drinkers and non-drinkers, money and customers.

Maneki Neko Cat Moving Arm

Maneki Neko Tattoo

Maneki Neko’s passion goes as far as tattooing certain parts of the human body as the drawings below show:

Chinese and Japanese Cat Tattooed Feet and Hands

foot tattoo
hand tattoo

Leg and arm tattoos

Leg Tattoos
arm tattoo

Some people tattoo the Magnificent Maneki Neko all over their back.

back tattoo

Who is your favorite Maneki Neko ?
Find all the derivative products (bags with the effigy of the little cat, purses, piggy banks, cups,…)

If you like the universe of Maneki Neko and Asian culture, you must probably be sensitive to Japanese Anime. Moreover, you will be able to find at Passion Ghibli a whole bunch of derivative products and goodies in connection with the most famous Films of Hayao Miyazaki including a whole who will remind you of these adorable little cats!

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