Maneki Neko: Japan's Beckoning Cats

Alan Scott Pate

Maneki Neko: Japan’s Beckoning Cats from Talisman to Pop Icon is a museum exhibition catalog published in 2011 by the Mingei International Museum to accompany the eponymous exhibition held between March 2011 and January 2012. Based largely on the Billie Moffit Collection and examples from the Mingei International Museum, the book provides the first English language exploration of the history, culture and artistry of Japan’s famous beckoning shop cat: the maneki neko. With a cursory nod to Hello Kitty, the book delves into the concepts of cats as talismans (engimono) and the origin stories that gave birth to the oddly specific image of seated cats with one raised paw serving as providers of protection and good fortune. Explored, as well, are the various Japanese kilns that made maneki neko a subspecialty such as: Imado, Kutani, Seto, Bizen, Tokoname, Fushimi, Mikawa, Hanamaki and Sumiyoshi. Also examined are the additional layers of meaning added to this already potent symbol trough the use of color or paw position. And finally, the book looks at the ways the maneki neko form has be incorporated into more functional objects in historical and today’s commercial society. Lavishly illustrated with photography by Lynton Gardiner, the work is supplemented with images of woodblock prints and paintings that shed further light on this little-known area of Japanese popular culture.

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