Among them, the Kurufuku Maneki-Neko Matsuri festival (来 る 福 招 き 猫 ま つ り) at Okage Yokocho (お か げ 横 丁) of Ise City is about to celebrate its 25th year in 2019, where many statues of Maneki-Neko sold with other related products. There is also a community dance where visitors can engage with locals, as well as events to experience Maneki-Neko crafting and creation. The festival runs from September 17 to 29. Last but not least, don’t miss visiting Kichou Shoufukutei (吉兆 招福 亭)! This is a souvenir shop that sells all kinds of Maneki-Neko statues from many parts of Japan!
In Japan, there are many things that are considered good or auspicious, including some very popular items, the most popular of which is Maneki-Neko (招 き 猫 – ま ね き ね こ) literally means waving catcall. The cat with one front leg raised like a hand seemed to be waving to everyone. In the past, a cat was considered a symbol of the silk fabric industry (growing mulberry silk) because cats help kill rats that eat mulberry and silkworms. However, with the downturn of the silk industry, the cat was later seen as a symbol of luck for businesses.
1. The city produces the most Maneki-Neko.
In Japan, there are some famous places for the production of Maneki-Neko statues such as Seto City (瀬 戸 市) in Aichi Prefecture (愛 知 県) and Takasaki City (高崎 市) in Gunma Prefecture (群 馬 県). Among these, the leading producer of these cute-looking cat statues is the city of Tokoname (常 滑 市) in Aichi Prefecture, and one of the oldest and largest production facilities among the “Nihon Rokkoyo”. (日本 六 古窯) “means” Six ancient Japanese kilns “. Most of the Maneki-Neko statues made in Tokoname are made from ceramic. However, in recent years, the plastic versions have become more popular, especially the battery-powered or solar-powered versions that have hands moving up and down in a continuous way.
In Tokoname, there is a giant statue of Maneki-Neko named Tokonyan (と こ に ゃ ん) that stands out. The name was decided after a poll from city residents made in the summer of 2008. Tokonyan is sitting on a wall south of Tokoname Maneki-Neko (と こ な め 招 き 猫 通 り) 3, 8 meters wide and 6.3 meters wide. If you look at it from the road below, it looks like Tokonyan is looking at you through the wall. In front of Tokonyan, there were two brown ceramic cats looking back at it like in the picture above. If you don’t look closely, you may be mistaken for the figurines in front of Tokonyan as real cats because they are the same size as a real cat!
Besides the looks that look very different, the 39 cat statues all have different meanings according to their creator’s intentions. For example, the 7 figurines in the photo above have their own meaning, from left to right respectively, wanting a smooth birth, longevity and health, ward off disease, travel safety, Protect pets, prevent or eliminate disasters, and get rid of trouble. For more details about these figurines before walking along the Tokoname Maneki-Neko path, visit the tourist information counter at Tokoname Station to pick up a small travel guide book. It will tell you all the meanings of 39 statues!
If you are a Maneki-Neko lover and want to meet other fans, you will probably be happy to know that there is a club for you called the Japanese Maneki-Neko Association (日本 招 猫 倶 楽 部), yes based in Gunma province. The club was founded in 1993 to gather Maneki-Neko lovers, and now the club has members nationwide. If you become a member, the club will provide 4 club magazines for its members for a two-year fee of 3,000 yen. There are no entry requirements, suitable for all ages, genders, and nationalities. All you have to do is pick up and fill out the form from the club, then send it back to them after completing the membership fee payment.
3. Celebrate Maneki Neko’s day
Did you know that there is a day Maneki-Neko in Japan? The Japan Maneki-Neko association designated September 29 as Maneki-Neko no hi (招 き 猫 の 日) because this day is read as “kuru (9) fu (2) ku (9)” (来 る 福) means is “good fortune coming to you”. To celebrate this day, there are several cities in Japan that often hold events and festivals such as Ise City (伊 勢 市) in Mie Prefecture (三重 県), Seto City in Aichi Prefecture and Shimabara City (島 原 市) in Nagasaki Prefecture (長崎 県).