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My Favorite Good Luck Souvenir: Japan’s Maneki-Neko “Lucky” Cat

My Favorite Good Luck Souvenir: Japan’s Maneki-Neko “Lucky” Cat

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As I’ve said many times here before, I can’t resist any souvenir that brings good luck. I’ve collected many lucky souvenirs over my travels, but my favorite symbol of good luck is the Maneki-neko cat from Japan.

The maneki-neko (‘beckoning cat’) is a popular Japanese lucky charm, originating in the Edo period. The Maneki-neko cat features one or two raised paws, in a beckoning (welcoming) pose. Lucky cats come in all sorts of sizes and colors, and might have a movable paw that gently beckons.

The classic Maneki-neko cat is traditionally a calico Japanese Bobtail cat, made from ceramic. Traditional lucky cats will feature a collar, bell and decorative bib– the bell of course so you know when your lucky cat is creeping up on you.

Maneki-neko cats are the perfect souvenir to bring home– tiny enough to fit in any suitcase, inexpensive and unique. They also make the perfect gift for those back home (I have yet to find anyone who doesn’t welcome a little more luck in their lives).

Don’t let your lucky cat sneak up on you– make sure to get one with a bell.

Lucky cats everywhere. (in Oita, Kusu District, Kanto region of Japan).

Buying Guide for Maneki-Neko Cats

Deciding on which lucky cat to bring home can be overwhelming. Here are some things to consider:

Make Sure Your Lucky Cat is Made in Japan

Most Quality Lucky Cats are made in Nagoya, Japan. Cheaper versions might be made in China (China also has their own version of a lucky cat).

Choose Your Maneki-neko Cat Based on Which Paw is Raised

  • The maneki-neko’s left paw raised brings in customers
  • The maneki-neko’s right paw raised brings good luck and wealth.
  • When both paws are raised I found different interpretations– some warn against both paws up as greedy, while others say it means the cat is protecting the home or business.

Choose the Best Color for Your Maneki-neko Cat

  • The classic lucky cat is white and symbolizes good luck.
  • A black maneki-neko cat means good health and is used to lure away evil spirits.
  • A pretty gold maneki-neko cat represents monetary good fortune.
  • Green and blue maneki-neko cats (I rarely saw these) bring academic success
  • Pink Maneki-neko cats bring love.

Where to Buy Your Maneki-neko Cat in the Tokyo Region

  • You’ll find these little cats everywhere. But if you’re picky about quality and want just the right cat, stick to Asakusa market in Tokyo– the selection there is bar none.
  • Runner up– the shops in Kawasaki are mercifully uncrowded so you can take your time browsing without getting jostled.
  • If you happen to find yourself in the spa town of Atami, the sweet shops lining the ancient streets offered many versions of lucky cats (along with other great souvenirs).

While most traditional lucky maneki-neko cats are of ceramic, they can be made of any material, like these adorable paper mache ones. (at the gift shop at the Itchiku Kubota Art Museum, Yamanashi, Kanto region of Japan).

lucky cat

I must be the luckiest girl ever with all the lucky souvenirs I’ve acquired.

Lucky cats aren’t just available in figurines– you’ll find them represented on all sorts of souvenirs.

I found these cute lucky cat pouches in the shops in Atami, Japan.

Have you brought home a lucky maneki-neko cat? Tell us about your cat in the comments!

Disclosure: my trip to the Kanto region of Japan was hosted by JTB, however, all lucky cat shopping was on my own.


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Shepard C Willner

Monday 30th of January 2017

I haven't bought one of these lucky cats yet. I do know that there's an Asian gift shop in DC's Chinatown neighborhood that sells them. The department store in Epcot's World Showcase Japan pavilion sells them, too. The next time I'm visiting Epcot, I'll buy one of these little statues and a colorful Yukata robe. I might not need to travel all the way to Japan to buy these items. However, I'm willing to wait until retirement to visit Japan.