Art,craft & Homewares

Japanese "lucky cat" brings you happiness!

2015.11.11

Attracting good luck: traditional Japanese "lucky cat" talismans are believed to bring happiness to owners


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"Lucky cats" (maneki-neko, sometimes known as "beckoning cats") are Japanese decorative objects believed to bring good luck, and the first ceramic lucky cats were made approximately 150 years ago. They are known as maneki-neko because they are cats (-neko) thought to bring in or "beckon" (maneki-) good luck to the places where they are installed.
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A prominent feature of Ginza Mitsukoshi's seventh floor is its Kutani ware lucky cats. Kutani ware refers to a type of traditional porcelain craft produced in the southern region of Ishikawa Prefecture, and these works have been treated as fine art since long ago.
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One of Kutani ware's most distinguishing characteristics is its flamboyant decorative design elements, which really draw the eye. The unique patterns covering these lucky cats are known as mori* and they are applied by seasoned artisans using specialized tools.
* Mori refers to a technique used to create bumpy textures.
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The lucky cat "beckons" different things depending on which paw--left or right--is raised. A raised right paw symbolizes the beckoning of the money.
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A raised left paw, on the other hand, symbolizes the beckoning of customers or visitors. This shows not only the desire for success in commerce, but also the desire to welcome visitors as well as the hope that good things will happen to them.
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During the Edo Period (1600-1868), actual cats were very helpful in preventing damage and loss caused by mice and rats in industries such as sericulture (silk farming) and agriculture. Because of their usefulness, cats were revered as beings similar to protective deities. Strings with bells attached (kubitama, or collars) are sometimes put on cats.
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A lucky cat may be seen holding various types of objects depending on its individual design. The most popular such object seen in lucky cat designs is the koban, an oval-shaped, gold currency once used in Japan. However, some lucky cats do not hold anything at all.
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Imado Shrine in Asakusa is one of the sites considered to be the birthplace of the lucky cat tradition. According to one tale, an old woman living in Asakusa was so poor she had to give up her beloved pet cat. That night, the cat appeared in her dreams, telling the woman that "if you recreate my image in the form of a figurine, happiness will be yours." The woman created figurines as the cat had instructed and sold them at Asakusa Shrine, where they were a big hit. Thereafter, it became popular to create such cat images and put them up in one's home or place of business, because this was thought to bring good things.
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Even today, Japanese people continue to use lucky cats as lucky charms in their daily lives--talismans said to bring good fortune to their owners. We hope you will choose one you like and put it up in your own home!

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