Some people ask me questions about the logo of Irasshai. With this blog post I want to reveal the story behind the logo of my freelance business. On the left side of the logo you can perceive a black dot with a red design in it. The red figure, which is by the way styled and designed by my daughter Luna, represents a so called 'Maneki Neko'.
A 'Maneki Neko' is a well-known Japanese charm that is often used by shopkeepers. It's a little cat doll with his paw raised. The sitting cat is often found near the entrance of the shop. The lucky charm should invite happiness. It is said that a Maneki Neko (which means 'beckoning cat') with the left paw raised, invites people (customers) and the ones with the right paw raised invites money (good business). Important to know is that in Japanese non verbal communication, beckoning is gestured by holding up the hand, palm down and repeatedly folding the fingers down and back. Just like the Maneki Neko does... So the cat isn't waving at us but beckoning us. But where lies the origin of the famous charm? There are many stories and legends that can be chosen as the origin of the Maneki Neko. One of them is certainly untrue, but leads its own life. The Maneki Neko is often but incorrectly referred to as the 'Chinese Lucky Cat' just because of it's popularity in Chinese communities. A better explanation can be found in Japanese history, more specifically in 1852 at the end of the Edo-period. As earliest records we can mention Bukou Nenpyou (a chronology of Edo) and a painting (ukio-e) from Hiroshige (did you found the Maneki Neko in the painting?), both dated 1852. In those days, it was said that when a cat washes his face, it means that a visitor will come. There also was a belief that when a cat washes his face, rain will come. And if it rains, people will come to your shop to find shelter...
Besides that, a number of Japanese folktales can be considered as the explanation of the cat as a charm for good luck and happiness. Let's start with 'The Temple Cat'. In this tale, a lord named Naotaka was taking shelter under a tree during a heavy rainfall. The temple cat of the Goutokuji Temple was beckoning so the lord followed him to the temple. One moment later, the tree was struck by lightning... Another story linked to the Goutokuji Temple tells that lord Naokata together with six samurai, was lured by a beckoning cat to the hut of a poor priest praying. Naokata was impressed by his praying and offered the priest a new temple (Goutokuji) and lots of rice fields. Also a story with Naokata (in other versions with Obunaga or a nobleman) tells us that a beckoning cat saved Naokata from a trap that had been laid for him just ahead. There is also story of 'The Old Woman' who had to sell her cat to gain money for food. In her dreams the cat comes to her and advises her to make little clay dolls of cats to sell them... The tale of 'The Beheaded Cat' has different versions. The most popular one is that with the geisha. The geisha had a cat. Suddenly the cat went frantic, clawing at the geisha's kimono persistently. Her boss took his sword and severed the head of the cat which flew through the air, lodged his teeth into and killed a dangerous snake above her head where it had been waiting to strike the geisha. In memory of the cat that saved the geisha's life, a wooden cat was made by a client.
It doesn't matter which tale you believe, with Irasshai I want to beckon every expat and wish him or her lots of good luck and happiness. And off course I hope that the Maneki Neko brings me lots of clients!