Many Japanese shops, restaurants and other businesses keep a little cat doll with its paw raised near their entrances. It is a common Japanese figurine – a lucky charm – called Maneki Neko, which literally means “beckoning cat”, and is believed to bring good luck and money to the owner. Usually made of ceramic or plastic, the figurine depict a cat with an upright paw as if beckoning people towards it. It is said that the raised paw brings in customers, while the other paw brings in good luck and wealth. Some modern Maneki Neko are battery-powered and have a slow-moving beckoning paw. Today, these figurines are becoming increasingly popular among merchants in other Asian countries as well, and just like the ubiquitous “laughing buddha” statues, the Maneki Neko have transcended all boundaries, both physical and religious. But their true home will always remain in Gotokuji, a temple in Tokyo’s Setagaya ward.
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