Maneki Neko is a porcelin figurine of a cat representing luck, and can be found at the entrance of every business establishment. The cat figure poses an inviting gesture with one hand waving customers into the place of business while the other is held open as if to receive money. The intent of the gesture is for the business to prosper.
The history of the Maneki Neko traces back to the 19th century, but didn’t appear in art work until the Meiji Restoration (~1870). The predecessor to Maneki Neko is Marujime Neko, which doesn’t pose any inviting gestures.
Another type of Maneki Neko is Hattatsu Neko, which is a cat wearing a traditional Japanese kimono and appeared around 1870. Hattatsu Neko are handed out once per month at the Sumiyoshi taisha shrine in Osaka. It is locally believed that one’s wish will come true when 48 Hattatsu Neko are collected over a 4 year period.
The pressure by Western civilization on Japan to open it’s country prior to the Meiji Restoration brought many changes. One of these was placing the Maneki Neko on the shelf at business establishments. This change was a direct result of Western civilization’s perspective on sex, which was opposite to Japan’s view. The Edo period (17th century) developed yuukaku, which were amusement houses but better known as brothels and it was common to place replicas of male sexual organs on a shelf, which were prayed to for good luck. The outlawing of using such replicas by the Meiji Restoration saw it replaced with the figure of the Maneki Neko. Restaurants soon followed this tradition and placed Maneki Neko on their shelves in hopes of attracting more customers.