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The Origin Of Japanese Lucky Cat / Waving Cat

Lucky cat or Maneki Neko is a lucky charm statue in the Japanese culture that is believed to bring good luck to whoever has it in their home. Today, the figurine is usually made from plastic or ceramic and is crafted to depict a traditional calico Japanese Bobtail gesturing with an upright paw.

The lucky cat is typically displayed mostly at the main entrance of shops, pachinko parlors, restaurants, dry cleaners, salons, Laundromats, and any other business. In most cases, you will find the lucky cat beckoning with a slow-moving paw.

The origin of Maneki Neko is widely believed to be Tokyo or Edo, as it was known back then. But others claim that it originated from Kyoto. However, the earliest recordings of the lucky cat are in the Buko nenpyo’s – a chronology of Edo, which is dated 1852.

In the accounts, there was a poor monk who lived a poor life in a tiny temple. He never had any children, but he did have a cat that he cared for like his own child. One day he spoke to the cat, “If you are grateful to me, bring some fortune to the temple.” Many months passed.

But one afternoon in a summer, the old monk heard noises at the gate of the temple, when he went closer, he saw about six samurai warriors who had just climbed down their horses. After approaching him, they said, “We were about to pass in front of your gate, but there is a cat was crouching, and suddenly it lifted one arm and started waving and waving when it saw us. We were surprised and intrigued, and that brought us to come here.” Immediately after, the storm started to build up in the sky, and moments later, a heavy thunderstorm arrived, a lightning stroke the ground on which the horses were standing.

Seeing that they escaped a lightning strike because of the unusual cat, the samurai made donations to help rebuild the temple, and soon, it becomes a rich and widely known temple. The temple – Gotokuji, still stands to these days and is situated in Setagaya, Western Tokyo.

orange lucky cat

The Spread Of The Japanese Lucky Cat

While it originated from Japan, the lucky is equally popular in Chinese culture. The origin story is still the same – it came from Japan when told in Chinese legends.

When China and Japan interacted through trade and culture, the lucky cat belief was imported into China. However, the Chinese culture already had a lucky cat belief, but not as strong as the Japanese Maneki Neko.
Because of its popularity in Chinese culture, many people have mistakenly referred to the lucky cat as ‘Chinese lucky cat.’

lucky cat snake plant

Maneki Neko Color Meaning

In many traditions around the world, a black cat is usually depicted as a bad omen and will bring bad luck to whoever sees it. But according to the principles of Maneki Neko, that is entirely wrong. Most countries, especially western countries, usually associate red cat with romance or love, but in Japan, the color red has a totally different meaning.

Originally, the color of the lucky cat was white, but as time passed and the cultural exchange between China and Japan, the variations Maneki Neko colors were born; more so with the combination of feng shui.

So if you want to get a lucky cat and don’t know how to decorate it or what color to buy with, keep reading!

Here are some of the most colors of the lucky cat and their meaning:


A lucky cat or Maneki Neko with black or entirely black in color symbolizes “Good luck.”


This color is associated with money, wealth, or good fortune. So if you aim to attract wealth, then get a Maneki Neko with golden color.


According to many Japanese ancient stories and records, it is believed that the color red in their culture symbolizes health. They believed that the color red was the direct emblem of fire and life, especially since animal blood is red, and humans depend on meat consumption for survival. Therefore, for good health, get yourself a red Maneki Neko.


When it comes to the color yellow, it seems it stands for general meaning, “good match.” But that is not a bad thing.
It could mean a career “good match,” business “good match,” or romantic “good match.”


A bleu “lucky cat” symbolizes safety. It does not, however, specify what kind of safety, so it may be overall safety. Ancient records nevertheless show that the color blue brings safety when crossing the road as well as good academic fortune.


A pink “lucky cat” will bring good luck in your love life.


While many cultures associate white with purity and cleanness, in Japan, a white Maneki-Neko is associated with happiness.


A green “lucky cat’ will bring you an academic fortune as well as keep your wife safe.


The brownish spots in a Maneki Neko are believed to bring you the best fortunes.


A leopard-styled Maneki Neko symbolizes “lead to vote,” thus it is associated with bringing good political luck.

lucky cat pink background unsplash

The Meaning Behind What The Lucky Cat Is Wearing And Holding

The lucky cat is usually dressed neatly with bright colors. You will find mostly it is decorated with a collar, a bib, and a bell.

This tradition dates back to the period of the ancient Edo civilization, and wealthy people would dress their beloved pets in the same manner. Lucky cat statue usually holds different things on their hands or paws. Some of the most common items are:

One Ryo

This was a Japanese currency used during the era of Edo, and it symbolized fortune.

A fish

In Japanese culture, fish brings good fortune and abundance.

The magic mallet

A lucky cat holding and gently shaking a small mallet means he is attracting wealth.

A marble or gem

The precious stones are known money magnet in many Asian cultures, and that is exactly what a Maneki Neko with marble or gem symbolizes.


The Lucky Cat Gesture Meaning

So we have covered the origin and the meaning of the colors of the lucky cat. But what about the gesturing? Should it gesture with right or left paw? Many stories have it that a cat figurine with its left paw gesturing will bring your business lots of customers, while other stories suggest that the right paw motion will bring you wealth and abundance.

But the truth, according to notable Japanese experts, the lucky cat can gesture using any paw and will lead to the best results anyhow. The interpretation of beckoning is different in different parts of Japan, and the meaning keeps changing as time pass. For this reason, it may be seen as a compromise to have your “beckoning cat” raise it both paws.

In Western countries, the gesture is interpreted very different from Japan. Most people in Europe think that the beckoning from the cat is waving at them and inviting people to come nearer and perform an action. But in Japan, a waving invite is usually a raised hand with palm turned outside, which is closed and open until someone noticed.

It is also believed that the higher the paw is raised, the more luck it attracts.

Generally, people have come to accept that when the Maneki Neko raises its left paw, it means attracting customers, while raising its right paw will invites money, wealth, and fortune.


Feng Shui Tips: Where To Place The Lucky Cat For Prosperity

In Your Home

Feng shui is an ancient home décor that originated in China. It has, however, crossed the borders and oceans to reach every corner of the globe. While it is an ancient philosophy, it includes both modern and classical concepts for better results.

There are numerous cures in feng shui, including the lucky cat, which is native Japanese culture that symbolizes prosperity, good luck, and wealth.

The two cultures have similar goals; attracting, welcoming, and maintaining positive life. Both practices can be used in our homes or places of work. The lucky cat is mainly used in places of work than homes, though.

To apply feng shui best, you have to take into consideration the design of your home, the furniture layout, and many other features.

Atrracting Money Feng Shui

The use of the lucky cat in feng shui is similar to the use of Ganesh. Both figurines are imported from other countries. The Maneki Neko or lucky cat comes from Japan, while Ganesh originates from India, which is an elephant-headed god of wisdom, success, and good luck. In feng shui, you can use either the Maneki Neko or the Ganesh for luck, wealth, and prosperity cures.

But first, you need to understand the Maneki Neko before decorating your home with it. You need to identify the sacred space in your house, where you can place the figurine for better results.

The good thing about feng shui is that each cure has a substitute, and you don’t like one cure you can change it with another, including the plants, elephants, dragons, fu dogs, or a turtle. The most important thing is that you go with your instinct and the energy vibe you receive from an object.

Commercial Use

The lucky cat is used commonly in businesses, including restaurants, retail stores, and offices that are open to the public. It is very uncommon to find Maneki Neko used at homes.

It is not difficult to know where you should use the cat statue, with clear suggestions coming from its common names, including money cat, and fortune cat. As we have already covered, the icon is used as prosperity and wealth cure, and also as good luck cure.

If you are used to having other feng shui cures, the lucky cat is more like the fu(福) dog – only friendlier. The cat is beckoning people to come in, and also contains energy that protects us against bad things.

Remember that lucky cat should always be facing the front door, to attract customers.

The colors red and gold are highly regarded in the Asian cultures as celebratory colors, especially when it is combined with shades of the color white, giving it unique energy that people can easily be drawn to.

white lucky cats cute

Where To Put Maneki Neko

Though it is most often used in business establishments, you can still use it in your home if you are attracted to the energy that it attracts. Since it is a money cure, the best place in your home to place it would be the money and wealth area – the southeast. The rule still stands in business buildings. Remember, all buildings have the money and wealth areas.

For business stalls, the lucky cat should be placed at the main entrance that is accessible by people coming in. if you share the entrance with other offices or businesses, the money cat should be placed in the northeastern location of your shop or office.

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