Maneki-neko comes from the verb maneku (invite or greet) and the name neko (cat). This little cat statue, very popular in Japan, is very often found in shops and restaurants and invites people in or greets them with raised paws – either the left or right one, or both. The right paw is supposed to bring luck and money; and the left, customers.
On top of having a day of its own, the maneki-neko has a dedicated shrine in Gotokuji Buddhist temple. This shrine honoring maneki-neko also has a pavilion, a pagoda, and the cemetery of the Li clan. During their reign, the temple prospered a lot. The shrine dedicated to maneki-neko displays hundreds of big and small white cat figurines raising their paws. Visitors can buy one and add it to the others.
The origins of maneki-neko are unclear. Several legends are related to it but it apparently appeared in the Edo period (1603-1867), the first document mentioning it dating back to 1870 during the Meiji period. One belief says that a cat rubbing its face announces the coming of a visitor, giving part of its meaning to maneki-neko.
Maneki-neko are also said to have protected people from lightning, inviting them with its raised paw to take another path. A legend tells the story of a priest in the temple from the Edo era had a cat he cared for very much. The feudal lord Li Naotaka was walking by the temple and saw this cat raising its paw, in a gesture of invite. As the priest was caring for him, serving tea, a thunderstorm broke out. To thank them, the lord offered land to the temple.