Visitors to many Japanese
-run businesses, particularly sushi restaurants
often see a stylized cat
statue, with one paw raised to its ear. Usually the cat is holding a gold
coin in the other paw, inscribed with Japanese lettering.
This statue, known as the beckoning cat or "fortune kitty" is supposedly modeled after a real cat. The story goes like this:
The master-priest of the ancient Gotoku-ji temple near Tokyo had a pet cat that he loved very much. Unfortunately the temple was very poor and all the monks were starving.
One day the cat was sitting by the road through the village and a group of Samurai came trotting through on beautiful horses. The cat raised its paw to its ear as if it were beckoning to them. Curious, the Samurai followed the cat back to the temple. When they arrived a torrential downpour started and they had to stay for a while.
The priest served them tea and took the opportunity to give a lecture on Buddhism. One of the Samurai really connected with the priest and eventually gave a huge estate to the temple. Today there is still a shrine of the beckoning cat at the temple.
Because the cat had lured the benefactor
to the temple, it is thought to be a symbol of good fortune and many Japanese shopkeepers put up statues of the cat, beckoning potential customers
to come in and do business.