Maneki Neko

Maneki Neko



Maneki Neko, the Japanese Beckoning Cat, virtually unknown one century ago, may be the most ubiquitous amulet on Earth today. The standard image of Maneki Neko depicts a Japanese bobtail cat holding up one paw in invitation. In Japan, the gesture of placing an open-palmed hand up to one ear indicates come here. Maneki Neko is perceived as exerting a magnetic come-hither effect and so the image should be placed near a door or window, looking out:

• A cat with a beckoning left hand invites business.

• A cat with a beckoning right hand invokes cash.

• Particularly hard-working Maneki Nekos keep both paws raised.

• Maneki Neko bells cleanse the aura while beckoning prosperity.

• Leopard-spotted Maneki Nekos are prized by politicians and those seeking votes. (The word for leopard in Japanese is a homonym for vote.)

It is important to appreciate that Maneki Neko is not just a doll or statue but radiates the power of a spirit in the same way that a Daruma doll radiates the power of that Bodhisattva. (Sometimes Maneki Neko is costumed as Daruma or is portrayed holding a Daruma doll in one hand, thus blending and magnifying their powers.) Maneki Neko is a benevolent cat spirit of abundance, wealth, and protection.

Various legends attest to the roots of this image:

• A cat saves a samurai’s life.

• A cat brings prosperity to a monastery.

• A cat brings economic success to its namesake cathouse, a bordello.

• A cat transforms into a courtesan to raise funds for the impoverished people she loves.

Although all these legends may be true, the last two best evoke Maneki Neko’s documentable history. Maneki Neko first emerged as a lucky amulet after previously popular phallic images were banned during the Meiji era (1868–1912). Cute Maneki Neko was the substitute and quickly proved her worth. Maneki Neko may secretly and discreetly evoke the power of female genital imagery, coming out of the closet just as her more explicit male counterpart was banished within. (See Konsei Myojin for further details.)

Although any Maneki Neko brings luck, different types of Maneki Neko images fulfill different needs. Cats are color coded:

• A white Maneki Neko brings luck and happiness.

• A gold Maneki Neko beckons wealth and prosperity.

• A black Maneki Neko serves as a spiritual guardian.

• A small black Maneki Neko worn as a charm allegedly protects against stalkers.

• A red Maneki Neko fosters good health.

• A pink Maneki Neko attracts romance and protects children.

• Tri-colored Maneki Nekos are considered especially auspicious

• A small Maneki Neko of any color worn around the waist protects against pain and illness, especially from arthritis.

No need to limit yourself to one Maneki Neko. Many fans accrue massive collections. Maneki Neko comes in all sizes. Many are ornamented with assorted good luck charms to enhance their power. Maneki Nekos housed in bars frequently clutch bottles of beer and are positioned to gaze at customers. Maneki Neko frequently masquerades as other spirits, including Okame and the Shichi Fukujin.


Maneki Neko statues are commonly manufactured with a slot in back so that they can serve as piggy banks. Allegedly feeding the statue some coins on a regular basis makes Maneki Neko work even harder.


The standard Maneki Neko holds a koban, a gold coin common during the Edo era (1603–1867) and wears a red collar with a bell. More ornate Maneki Nekos wield attributes closely associated with other spirits especially Daruma dolls, the hammer that identifies Daikoku and the red fish that is emblematic of Ebisu. The implication is that Maneki Neko wields their power as well as her own.


Bastet; Daikoku; Daruma; Ebisu; Fukusuke; Nang Kwak; Neko-Mata; Okame; Shichi Fukujin


Encyclopedia of Spirits: The Ultimate Guide to the Magic of Fairies, Genies, Demons, Ghosts, Gods & Goddesses – Written by : Judika Illes Copyright © 2009 by Judika Illes.