Everything You Need to Know about Maneki Neko

What is Maneki Neko?

You may have seen Maneki Neko in many Japanese shops, restaurants and businesses previously but never really understood what it represents. Known as a beckoning cat or lucky cat, Maneki Neko is often believed to bring good luck to its owner. The main body of the talisman is a cat (often gold but colours do vary, which can change the cat’s meaning) holding up a paw which is supposed to represent the art of beckoning and the idea of inviting people into the venue. However if you see a Maneki Neko with its right arm up, this is said to be inviting money into the location. You can learn more about lucky cat posture and each posture’s meaning from our previously written guide.

How do you pronounce Maneki Neko?

The translation of the word in English means beckoning cat, with many people mispronouncing the word for cat, ‘Neko’. The spelling sometimes can throw people off the pronunciation, which is actually ‘neh-ko’, with the vowels being short sounds and pronounced the same way as in the word ‘better’.

A white Maneki-neko figurine highlighted with red and green has a raised right paw

The history and tradition of Maneki Neko

The tradition of Maneki Neko dates back to a particular story from 1633 when Japanese feudal lord li Naotaka got caught in a rainstorm and therefore tried to seek shelter under a nearby tree. Naotaka noticed a cat nearby that appeared to be beckoning him into a nearby neglected shrine, as he followed the cats beckon the tree set alight and exploded behind him. Naotaka was so grateful to the cat for saving him he restored the temple to its former glory and renamed it Gotokuji Temple after Naotaka's family’s Buddhist name. From this, the tradition of Maneki Neko was born and the temple is still to this day a symbol of the lucky cat.

To find out more about the origins of Maneki Neko, then check out our previous post explaining all about the legend of the Japanese lucky cat!

Where to place Maneki Neko

Traditionally, the best location for a Maneki Neko is in the wealthy area of the home, the south-eastern corner of the house. Or if you have a home office or study, it needs to be placed as close to that as possible, again in a south-east corner is preferable to bring wealth and prosperity in your career. Despite this, wherever you decide to place your lucky cat in your home it should reflect the positive and prosperous symbol it represents.

When it comes to placing a Maneki Neko in a place of business, the location it should sit in really depends on the nature of the business. For example, businesses that have a shop front or front window should place the lucky cat in the window so it’s visible for those entering. If this isn’t possible, then it should be placed in the north-eastern area of a business, in order for business and wealth to really prosper.

Please feel free to browse our very own collection of Maneki Neko back on our online store. Or, please keep reading our blog for more information on Japanese traditions.  

Back to blog