Paper Model: Canon Creative Park’s “MANEKI NEKO” (Good Luck Charm) by ayumu saito / craft pocket

The Maneki Neko (literally “Beckoning Cat” in Japanese) is also known as Welcoming Cat, Lucky Cat, Money Cat, or Fortune Cat. It is a common Japanese sculpture, often made of porcelain or ceramic, which is believed to bring good luck to the owner. The Maneki Neko depicts a cat beckoning with an upright paw, and is usually displayed in stores, restaurants, pachinko parlors, and other businesses. A raised right paw supposedly attracts money, while a raised left paw attracts customers or deflects bad luck.

In addition to sculptures, Maneki Neko can be found as key chains, piggy banks, air fresheners, and miscellaneous ornaments. The cat breed represented in the sculpture is generally a Japanese Bobtail.

Maneki Neko is the subject of a number of legends. Listed below are three of the most popular, explaining the cat’s origins:

  1. The Temple Cat – The legend tells us that a wealthy feudal lord was taking a shelter under a tree near Gotoku-ji Temple (located in Western Tokyo) during a thunderstorm. The lord saw the temple priest’s cat beckoning to him and followed; a moment later the tree was struck by lightning. The wealthy man became friends with the poor priest and the temple became prosperous. When the temple cat died, supposedly the first Maneki Neko scuplture was made in its honor.
  2. The Courtesan – A courtesan named Usugumo, living in Yoshiwara (located in Eastern Tokyo), kept a cat that is much beloved by her. One night, the cat began tugging at her kimono. No matter what she did, the cat persisted. The owner of the brothel saw this, and believing the cat was bewitched, he cut its head off. The cat’s head then flew to the ceiling where it killed a snake, ready at any moment to strike. Usugumo was devastated by the death of her companion. To cheer her up, one of her customers made her a wooden likeness of her cat as a gift. This cat image then became popular as the Maneki Neko.
  3. The Old Woman – An old woman living in Imado (located in Eastern Tokyo) was forced to sell her cat due to extreme poverty. Soon afterwards, the cat appeared to her in a dream. The cat told her to make its image in clay. She did as instructed, and soon afterward sold the statue. She then made more, and people bought them as well. They were so popular she soon became prosperous and wealthy.

Maneki Neko comes in different colors, styles, and degrees of ornate design. Black is said to be the color of darkness and the black Maneki Neko is believed to ward of evil and misfortune. The black Maneki Neko with its left paw raised is said to “protect against the trouble that people bring”.

Building this Maneki Neko model is surprisingly enjoyable because of its large parts and easy to read instructions. I used a simple 120 gms. A-4 size paper for easy folding and assembling. The only thing that’s bothering me now is how hard it will be for to find a suitable display case for a large paper model. There are two other types of Maneki Neko for download; one is the traditional white Maneki Neko to attract money and the other is a pink Maneki Neko to attract people.

If you want to try assembling this paper model, you may download the pattern and instructions at the Canon Creative Park website [click here].

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