Step Into the World of the Japanese Beckoning Cat, a Symbol of Good Fortune and Wealth
You may have encountered a shop’s entrance with a figurine of a cat whose arms are raised, doing a seemingly waving motion. The manekineko (Japanese for ‘beckoning cat’) is of Japanese origins, and represents a cat ‘beckoning’ for wealth and good fortune - a few versions of it even have the cat holding a gold coin!
Manekineko has crossed different cultures but it remains just as important in Japan. In fact, there are several museums in Japan dedicated to exploring the history and depictions of manekineko. One interesting ode to the lucky cat is the Manekineko Art Museum in Okayama Prefecture, situated in a mountain village north of Okayama city.
The museum houses around 800 permanent manekineko figurines in different shapes, sizes and colours, and are made with different materials such as clay, wood and stone. It consists of figurines dating back to the Meiji era (1868-1912), as well as original figurines created by internationally renowned artists.
On the first floor of the main exhibition space is where visitors are able to fill out ‘inorifuda’ or paper used to write prayers on. After which, it is hung on the museum’s walls or on bamboo stands in the museum.
Due to the museum’s expanding collection, the main exhibition space was moved to a 100-year-old farmhouse in 2015. What was previously the main exhibition space has been converted into the Lucky Cat House, which houses a smaller exhibition space, a library, and a Paint and Event space where visitors can paint their own manekineko figurine and take it home as a souvenir!