I've seen two versions of the history on different web sites. One talks about how cats can detect weather changes, and would often wash their faces before a rain storm. For an agriculture based society, rain is good, and farmers noticed the cats and thought that they were beckoning the rain.
There is also a temple near Tokyo, called Goutokuji, where an early lord was supposed to have been saved by a cat. The lord was caught in a rain storm and tried to wait it out under a tree. He saw a cat beckoning him, and went to the cat just before the tree he was under was struck by lightning. That temple now houses what is supposed to be a impressive collection of maneki neko.
Note - photos above were 'borrowed' from another web site... I haven't gotten around to photographing these little kittys myself yet.
There are different colors and some have different paws up in the air. What does all this mean? Good question...
- white with the right paw up in the air is beckoning money
- white with the left paw up is beckoning customers
- black is beckoning health
- yellow is beckoning good luck
- gold is beckoning money
- red is warding off evil
- pink is attracting love
The white ones are most common in stores, especially the white one with its left paw up. Yellow, gold, red, and pink are not common.
To see some interesting superstition, you should check out information on the Hounen Matsuri which takes place in mid-March at Tagata Jinja (Tagata shrine). My dictionary does not have an english translation for Hounen, which is probably because it is a dirty word (something like phallus). There is information on this matsuri (festival) at my school's web site - http://www.yamasa.org/japan/english/destinations/aichi/tagata_jinja.html. Definitely worth a peek. Too bad I won't be here to see it.
Off of superstition - there are some little quirks in the language, as compared to english. For example, they use the same verb (dasu) for mailing a letter as for withdrawing money. And the verb used to say that someone has retired from a company (yameru) is also used to describe when someone has given up. I guess this latter verb shows how important jobs are to Japanese people (well, Japanese men at least).
Side note - a gaigin (foreign person) here who has a Japanese wife was explaining to us about how Japanese talk about orgasms. They say they are going. I guess this makes more sense than to say you are coming (I know, it isn't spelled that way in English).
My language studies are definitely coming (going?) a long, but it is obvious that Japanese is a very difficult language. To give me the opportunity to learn more, I have decided to come back to Okazaki in two months for another 6 weeks of study. Looks like I will get to add more updates...
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