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The Origin Story Behind The Japanese Waving Cat, Plus Other Interesting Facts

Travelers Today       By    MJ De Castro

Updated: Aug 01, 2018 09:45 PM EDT

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fKnown by many names such as the lucky cat, the waving cat, or the beckoning cat, the Maneki Neko can be seen across the world.

While many people attribute the adorable cat to Chinese business establishments, its origins can be traced back to Japan. Now, the talisman can be found everywhere in Japanese homes and shops, having just one or both paws raised.

Although it looks like a waving cat as its paw goes up and down, its action carries a different meaning. It believed that when it raises its right paw, it is to protect the home, and when the left one is raised, it is to call for business success.

There are still debates on the city that holds claim to the talisman, but its most persistent legend is the one which involves Gotokuji in Setagaya district, Tokyo. The place even has its own amazing temple dedicated to the cute feline.

Origin Of The Maneki Neko

Situated in a peaceful neighborhood is the Gotokuji temple where tons of smiling felines can be seen. The place is a must-visiting when going to Japan. The local legend states that when the temple was only a little hut back in the 1400s, at the beginning of the Edo period, the monk who took care of it had troubles in making ends meet because of his little income.
However, the poor monk has a cat whom he loved so much. He even shared his food with his pet. One day, he asked his cat to bring good fortune to him. After a short time, a number of samurais arrived in his hut during a rainstorm and said that the cat waved to them from the road.

The monk served tea to the samurais and because of this, they were very delighted. One of the samurais, Naotaka Li, introduced himself as the lord of Hikone, in the Koshu prefecture. The lord then donated rice fields and crop lands to the temple, therefore making it the great landmark that it is today. Years later, when the cat passed away, it was enshrined as an incarnation of a god named Shobyo Kannon, the Goddess of Mercy, and a statue was built on the area for the cat.

Gotokuji Temple

Now, visitors of the temple leave the talisman as a symbol of gratitude for all their granted wishes. The uniform maneki-nekos are arranged to form a veritable army, whose numbers are now up by thousands.
More tailed charms are even available for guests to buy at the temple with sizes ranging from 3 centimeters to a foot tall to leave as an offering or to take to the visitor's home or business establishment. The Maneki Neko can also be found in a wide variety of comics, games, and books. For example, the Pokémon Meowth was based on this cute kitty.

See Now: The U.S. had the highest number of Most Wanted properties, dominating the Hotels.com Loved By Guests Awards 2018

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japan, legend, cat
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