Press Release

Maneki Neko: Japan’s Beckoning Cats

CONTACT: Charles Schuler
Director of Communications
San Francisco International Airport


Maneki Neko: Japan’s Beckoning Cats
New exhibition features a variety of traditional maneki neko from Japan’s many kilns

SAN FRANCISCO - January 30, 2018 - During the late Edo period, artisans began making maneki neko or beckoning cat figurines, a type of engimono or auspicious object.  The cats often appear in Japanese and Chinese restaurant windows, where they silently summon potential customers to enter.  The cat holds up its left paw in an effort to bring luck and good fortune to a business; it holds up its right paw to invite good fortune, health, and happiness into the home.  Colors also have certain connotations: white represents happiness and satisfaction, while black symbolizes safety and helps to drive away evil.  Gold maneki neko reference money and fortune.  One of the distinctive features of many maneki neko is the bib attached to the neck.  Bibs are frequently painted with traditional symbols of good luck and fortune, such as coins.  At first glance, maneki neko may all look very similar, but closer inspection reveals the cats vary in color, size, facial features, and bib decoration.

By the end of the Meiji period (1868–1912), numerous potteries across the country offered maneki neko in ceramic and plaster, including the celebrated Seto and Kutani porcelain kilns.  Maneki neko also began appearing to a lesser extent in copper, bronze, wood, stone, and iron.  All of the maneki neko featured in this exhibition are from the collection of Mingei International Museum in San Diego.

Maneki Neko: Japan’s Beckoning Cats is located post-security in Terminal 2, Departures Level, San Francisco International Airport.  This exhibition is accessible to ticketed passengers from February 3, 2018–August 26, 2018.

The online version of this exhibition is viewable at:


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