Surely you have already seen this famous white, black or even golden cat also called lucky cat at the entrance of a pachinko, a business or an Asian restaurant called Maneki Neko. Constantly wiggling its left paw, or even right in some cases, it is more and more present in French-speaking countries and even in Europe in general. We will therefore answer today a simple question but which is not so simple when we look at its origin and its historical evolution through time.
The etymology of maneki-neko is certainly Japanese since it is a cross between the verb maneku which means "to invite" and neko which is translated by "cat". Literally Maneki Neko means therefore "the cat who greets" or "the cat who invites". That's why we find them precisely at the entrance of restaurants and stores because they are intended to symbolize the welcome to the guests. But with time maneki-neko have also taken an economic dimension since in addition to symbolizing the welcome with the left paw that greets, the right paw often more discreet, is it intended to bring good fortune and money to its owner.
Although the etymological origin of the maneki-neko is Japanese, as we have just seen, this is not the case of its position in which it is always represented with the paw raised. Although it can change according to times and regions, most often we find it with the left leg raised. This position would thus come from a Chinese proverb from the Tang dynasty: "The cat who washes his face, passes through the ear, until the guest arrives". Thus this paw raised to the ear would be nothing more than a detour of this proverb. Therefore it is quite complicated to determine the exact origin of maneki-neko since its etymology is Japanese and its position is taken from a Chinese proverb.
Since the origin of the maneki-neko is still rather unclear, a legend had to appear in order to give a concrete, though slightly irrational, answer to this question. Once upon a time, there was a rich man of daimyo (lord) rank who was riding on a road with his samurai warriors on a matter of state. When a heavy rain fell on the group of men the daimyo and his men took refuge under a tree which was not far from the Gotoku-ji Buddhist temple, which today has an altar dedicated to the maneki-neko. While they were trying to escape the heavy rain, the lord saw a cat waving at him and raising its paw. Looking closely, he saw a doorway that marked the entrance to the temple in question, hesitating slightly but finally, out of curiosity, he finally made his way to the cat. But alas, even before he reached the door, a bolt of lightning struck him and the man fell at once.
When we know that the maneki-neko today partly symbolizes good fortune, it is indeed rather paradoxical to know that the legend attributed to it integrates it as an extra causing bad luck. However, it is indeed the legend that has been attributed to him. Therefore, to return to the very origin of the maneki-neko knowing that the legend that traces its first appearance in history is Japanese, one would rather tend to consider it as a Japanese cat for lack of being Chinese.
If you are lucky enough to get used to the year or to visit the archipelago of the Land of the Rising Sun you will have no trouble finding a lucky cat in stores in Tokyo or even in less touristic cities. Nevertheless, if like many you are not so lucky you can always find some on our Japanese Temple store.