Like any good cat lover, I love to collect “feline-alia,” and among my favorite cat-themed delights are Maneki Nekos.
The “welcoming cat,” famous in Japan and beyond, traces back to the Edo period (1603 to 1867), and is reputed to bring good luck and good fortune to places where it is displayed.
On a trip to Seattle last summer, I visited Uwajimaya, a giant Asian grocery and gift store in the city’s International District, where I found dozens and dozens of Maneki Neko, ranging from beautifully crafted art pieces to classic kitsch plastic monstrosities with waving paws. I drooled over every single one of them — and then sadly realized there was no way I’d be able to fit the ceramic beauty that won my heart into my carry-on bag, and if I stuck it in my soft-sided suitcase, there was no way it would arrive unbroken after a 3,000-mile plane trip back to Maine.
And now I have yet another reason to yearn for more pieces in my Maneki Neko collection.
A new exhibit featuring a huge assortment of Maneki Neko is now on display at the Cat Fanciers’ Association’s Feline Historical Museum in Alliance, Ohio.
The CFA Foundation received a collection of the beckoning cats, ranging in size from tiny to almost 2 feet tall, shortly after it opened the museum last year. To make the exhibition even more special, the museum has numerous other Maneki Neko-related items on loan from collections across the United States.
I guess I’m going to have to figure out an excuse for going to Ohio before the exhibit closes in October.
Hmm, I wonder if any work-related conferences are going on nearby …
Meanwhile, I’ll settle for gazing wistfully at the few Maneki Neko I have in my own collection and a whole bunch of online window-shopping.
Maybe I’ll get lucky and find a cool beckoning kitty or two on my next trip to TJ Maxx, the source from which of all of my favorite home decorations awesome and kitschy has flowed thus far.
Or maybe I’ll get really lucky, and when I move to the Big City in May, I’ll find a locally owned import store where I can empty my wallet on Maneki Nekos — and some of my other favorite Asian art. I need more Buddhas, White Taras, Kwan Yins, Ganeshas, and dancing Shivas in my life, too!