Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Historical Origins of Maneki Neko

Part 1 - Historical Origins

The meaning of Maneki Neko in Japanese is Beckoning Cat. Sources and information on the origins of Maneki Neko are rare. The exact origins are unknown. Maneki Neko the fortune cat most likely originated somewhere around the Edo period (1603-1867) of ancient Japan. However, it was only during the early 1900s that Maneki Neko started to popularize. An earlier documentary of it was produced during the 1870s in Japan's Meji's Era and there was a mention of it in the newspaper in 1876. Once, Maneki Neko was widely distributed in the shrine of Osaka too!

Cats are considered to be as wise and lucky spirits. A cat once waved to Japanese Emperor Oda Nobunaga and Samurai Li Naotaka. They paused when the cat waved and took it as a sign. That prevented them from entering a trap. Several Shrines and homes have figurines of cat that are similar to Maneki Neko in which the figurine looks like it is waving. That could just be one of its possible origins.

Some may associate Maneki Neko's gesture as a cat washing its face. Japanese believe that when a cat washes its face, a visitor will arrive shortly. This belief is somewhat related to an old Chinese proverb stating that if a cat washes it's face, there will be rain. This could hence explain the belief of this figuring cat washing its face to bring in customers. As to how it became popular in America, it is unknown. Likely, it could be due to Patricia Dale-Green who wrote about them in 1963 known as the Cult of the Cat. Another possibility could be introduction by Japanese immigrants to the US.

Sumiyoshi Taisha Shrine


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