Probably best known to Americans as the cute plastic cats beckoning customers to enter Asian restaurants across the country, the Lucky Cat or Maneki-neko is a Japanese symbol that dates back over 100 years, and at Ohio’s Lucky Cat Museum, over 1,000 iterations of the lasting feline icon are on display.
The decorative felines are thought to bring not only luck in general, but specifically monetary fortune, and an ability to beckon people (read: customers). The standard “beckoning cat” sits in an upright position with one of its paws raised and often mechanically made to wave back and forth. However throughout the years, the Nekos have been adorned with iconic accessories and other flourishes meant to accentuate various specific aspects of the mythical beasts powers, such as longer waving arms to attract more people or holding a coin to hone in on the accumulation of wealth. Countless variations on the traditional themes have been created usually in ceramic or plastic, yet the indelible spirit of the maneki-neko always remains intact.
Ohio’s Lucky Cat Museum collects any and all iterations of the icon in a small art space that is still used for creation in the museum’s off season. rows and rows of lucky felines line the walls and glass cases. Some come with extra arms, while some can wave and others are molded into place. In addition to the ceramic and plastic cats, wood, stone, and metal versions are also on display. Plush cats, toy cats, and cats decorated by modern artists, any version of the lucky kittens is welcome. Currently the collection holds over 1,000 specimens, but is always growing.
The Lucky Cat Museum is open Tuesdays through Saturdays, from 3:00pm-6:00pm. Micha Robertson, the museum’s owner and founder is happy to show off the collection. Given how many of the smiling cats are fit into the space, visiting the museum might be the luckiest day of your life.
Know Before You Go
In Essex Studios. I-71 Southbound exit 3. Turn left onto Essex Place. Essex Studios are on the right.