The Mingei International Museum has a collection of over 150 maneki neko. Maneki neko are Japanese beckoning cats, made of clay, porcelain, metal, rock, wood or other material. They are talismans of good fortune in Japan.
Seventy examples of maneki neko in the Mingei’s collection are now on display in the Exhibit Hall at the Japanese Friendship Garden. Both the Mingei and JFG are located in Balboa Park, the cultural center of San Diego. Currently the Mingei’s building–the House of Charm–is closed to the public as it undergoes a major renovation.
This afternoon I visited the Japanese Friendship Garden and viewed this exhibition. It’s simply titled: Maneki Neko – Japan’s Beckoning Cats.
I must admit that until today I knew nothing about maneki neko. While admiring the many beckoning cats, I read some informative signs.
I learned that a maneki neko with a raised right paw indicates a wave of good fortune to a home, and a raised left paw brings luck to a business. The higher the paw, the greater the good fortune!
I learned maneki neko sometime wear colorful bibs, which represent an expression of gratitude for a wish realized. Also, the color of the cat is meaningful. Black symbolizes safety, gold symbolizes money, white symbolizes happiness, red symbolizes protection.
I learned about Hatsutatsu-san, a popular variety of beckoning cat that wears human clothing! (You can see an example in an upcoming photo.)
I also learned about a few of the different kilns in Japan that produce maneki neko, and how each kiln has its own distinctive style.
When you view this exhibition, you’ll probably learn a lot, too! And you’ll be charmed by the beauty and unique personality of every beckoning cat.
Planning a trip to Balboa Park? This wonderful exhibition can be enjoyed at the Japanese Friendship Garden through November 29, 2020.
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