Maneki Neko the Lucky Cat

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The legend of the beckoning cat.

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Maneki Neko the Beckoning Cat

Illustrated Lexicon of Maneki Neko
I have compiled what I think is an accurate description of the meanings of the varying characteristics of different types of fortune cat figurines now available. Also provided is a reference of the definitions and significance of items Maneki Nekos are often posed with or holding. Please note that that many of these, especially the modern ones, have meanings that are mostly dependant on the manufacturers or sellers, so it is by no means complete, or absolute.

Crystal BallCrystal ball, gem or a marble can often be found in the paws of more modern Maneki Nekos. While there is no specific meaning assigned to this item, it could easily be indicating wealth (in the form of a valuable gem), wisdom (in the form of a crystal ball used by psychics and mystics) or simply intended as decoration with no real symbolism behind it at all.

DaikonDaikon is a giant white radish frequently used in stir fries and other meals. It has decorated several Maneki Neko figurines, though it is still fairly unusual. It is a fairly obscure symbol signifying good fortune, plenty and bounty. It does not seem that Daikon itself is thought to be lucky, but more of a representation of things the bounty and good fortune hoped for, represented by a big, perfect vegetable.

DarumaDaruma is the Japanese name for Bodhidharma, who transmitted Zen Buddhism to China from India. It's said that he sat in meditation so long that he lost the use of his legs. Daruma dolls are usually made from paper mache, and have only white eyes when purchased. One fills in the first eye when a resolution or wish is made, and paints in the second eye when the goal is achieved. Daruma is often considered to be good luck.

CoinKoban is a gold coin common in the Edo period or Japan. The denomination of Koban was worth one ryo (think of one ryo of equivalent to roughly one thousand dollars), an early Japanese monetary unit. Most Koban being held by Maneki Neko in modern days, depicts ten million ryo, which is representative of a considerable fortune.

EmaEma is a prayer tablet. Traditionally people write messages of thanks, or wishes on and place them at shrines. The word Ema, literally means horse picture, which comes from the original purpose of them, which was to replace actual horse offering at the shrines, with paintings of horses instead.

FishFish especially the carp, symbolises strength, courage and determination, associated with the will and strength required to swim upstream. The fish in the paws of Maneki Neko figurines may also symbolise abundance and good fortune, because what could a lucky cat possibly be happier to have than a big, fresh, delivious fish! Occasionally the fish will be posed with coins falling from it's mouth.

HyotanHyotan is a hollowed out dried gourd in which Sake (Rice Wine) and other beverages were traditionally kept. Fukurokuju the god of wisdom and longeivity, is one of the seven lucky gods of Japan. He is frequently posed with a hyotan drinking vessel, which may have led to their being associated with luck. Gourds in general are also considered to be good luck, which may contribute to Hyotan appearng in the paws of Maneki Neko.

Golden IngotIngot is of Chinese origin. In ancient China, precious metals such as gold and silver were kept in a boat like ingot form, which was easily stacked. The golden ingot is now a symbol of wealth and financial prosperity, as well as an easy life. Many people place brass replicas of ingots around their homes.

UchidenokozuchiUchide Nokozuchi otherwise known as a magic money mallet, is a lucky charm that is thought to bring wealth to one who shakes it. It is usually seen in the hand of Daikoku Mantra, the god of wealth and farmers, who was fortunate enough to have coins fall out of his magic money mallet, every time he shook it, but some Maneki Neko figurines were luck enough to get their paws on one too!

If you have any suggestions for other things that should be included in this lexicon, please contact me and I will gladly add them! Interested in learning about the significance of Maneki Neko colors? Visit the types of Maneki Neko page for more information!

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