Sunday, November 12, 2006

Maneki-neko, the beckoning cat of good fortune

Cat Fancy magazine ran an article on the origins of Japan's maneki neko, the ubiquitous beckoning-cat statue.

According to legend, the tradition dates back to a real-life cat who beckoned a famous general away from a spot where lightning struck the ground only seconds later.

I, however, had always imagined a different origin for the tradition. Anyone who knows cats know that occasionally they really do what looks like a beckoning gesture. In the Japan of old, shopkeepers often kept cats who earned their keep by catching rats. Perhaps one particular shopkeeper's cat sat in front of the store doing that cute beckoning gesture, attracting people to the shop and thereby filling up the shopkeeper's till. And the rest, as they say, is history. Perhaps.

"I swear, ma'am, 'twas not me what gone an' ate that katsuoboshi."

—Mellow Monk

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