The "Maneki" or "beckoning" cat is said to bring luck to its owner.
There are many legends about the birth of maneki-neko, of which the most popular is the legend of Gōtoku-ji temple. In the 17th century, a poor monk lived in the small Zen temple in Setagaya, Tokyo. Although his life was very difficult, he shared his own meager meals with his pet cat which strayed into the temple. One day, a lord samurai Ii Naotaka of the Hikone Domain district was on his way to hunt when suddenly a storm came, and he had to seek safety under a big tree near the temple. Sheltering there, he noticed the cat, raising one paw as if waving him to the temple. Curious, he left his cover and headed for the temple to have a better look at the strange cat. As he did so, a lightning bolt destroyed the tree beneath which he had just been standing. Naotaka was so grateful, he became the patron of the temple, repaired it to become more spacious. When the cat died, he was buried in a special graveyard for cats. In the temple, a statue of maneki-neko was made to commemorate this special cat that has been revered ever since.
Alternatively, according to a folktale the operator of an impoverished shop (or inn, tavern, temple, etc.) took in a starving stray cat despite barely having enough to feed himself. In gratitude, the cat sat in the front of the store beckoning customers, thus bringing prosperity as a reward to the charitable proprietor. Ever after, the "beckoning cat" has been a symbol of good luck for small business owners.
dimensions height: 7cm
Made from Indonesian balsa wood. Hand carved and painted in Japan.