There are many legends surrounding maneki nekos, the beckoning cats. It is said that a maneki neko with his right paw raised brings fortune and one with the left paw raised brings business. Or perhaps they just bring luck, as in this tale.
Long ago, in 18th century Japan, in a house of ill repute in Yohsiwara, there lived a lady of the night known as Usugumo.
Yoshiwara was the red-light district of Edo, which is now Tokyo.
Usugumo was very popular and charming, and she loved cats. There were always plenty of cats wandering the premises, which is perhaps why it was called a cat house.
One cat was her favorite, and it never left her side, much like Dr. Claw and MAD Cat.
One night, as Usugumo prepared to meet her guests, the cat began to tug at her kimomo. Usugumo tried to shoo the cat away but the cat insisted, and kept tugging. In fact, the cat was tugging so hard that the silk of the kimono was shredding. It was Usugumo's favorite kimono, and she was none too pleased with the cat's behavior.
It became clear that there was no way Usugumo could remove the cat without shredding her kimono, and finally she called out to the house madam for help.
The Madam rushed in and, believing the cat to be possessed by an evil spirit, grabbed the cat and hurled it across the room... along with a good size piece of the kimono.
The cat flew through the air and up to the ceiling... where it bit and killed a deadly snake poised above, ready to attack Usugumo.
At last Usugumo understood why the cat had been tugging at her. The Madam, thankful for the cat's bravery, had a likeness carved from wood. And this carving became known as Maneki Neko ~ the beckoning cat.
Maneki nekos to protect you... from deadly snakes and anything else that comes your way.