A friend is coming over to the USA and I am getting him to bring me this: a Maneki Neko cat.
If you follow that link, you will learn that this beckoning/waving/money/good luck cat is a popular fixture in businesses in Asia. A raised left paw is meant to bring customers; a raised right paw brings money and wealth. This little guy has both paws raised, albeit with eyes firmly closed as if to say "Bring it on!"
I didn't have this background when I spotted it in a store near Gotokuji station where I stayed in Tokyo. I thought it was cute, but not worth spending $10 on to clutter up my no-room-for-clutter life. But then, I land in the USA, and I'm pining for this little cat. Ever done that? Wish you'd bought something and then gone to the trouble and expense of getting it later?
It has a double significance for me, as Wikipedia speaks of its legendary origins where I stayed in Setagaya-Ku, one of Tokyo's west wards:
The Temple Cat: This story goes that a wealthy feudal lord was taking shelter under a tree near Gotoku-ji temple (in Western Tokyo) during a thunderstorm. The lord saw the temple priest's cat beckoning to him and followed; a moment later the tree was struck by lightning. The wealthy man became friends with the poor priest and the temple became prosperous. When the cat died, supposedly the first Maneki Neko was made in his honor.
So, if I have this cat by my bed I shouldn't get struck by lightning, right?
This is a variant where you get two cats for the price of, well, two. The big one opens up and a small weighted version pops out, which roly polys about on a weighted base.
What on earth am I going to do with these cats?
Perhaps my obsession with Maneki comes from remembering Pongo the cat I co-owned in Eugene, Oregon, and who is probably right this minute nestled in Tim's loving lap.
This is Pongo ...
Am I turning Japanese? Well, next Tuesday I'm going to a Nabe hotpot seminar at the Japan Society. Another cup of sencha for you?
Below: This utterly priceless shot of potter Jinenbo Nagawa and his fortunate cat was posted by Harris Salat of the Japanese Food Report. Hope you don't mind me sharing it here, Harris - I nearly fell off my furo stool ...
Galfromdownunder in Japan