Archive | August, 2011

Lucky wind chime

28 Aug

For centuries in Japan, the tinkle of a wind chime has brought to mind the cooling sound of water on a hot summer day. Wind chimes (or wind bells) were originally brought from China to Japan around 400 BC. Buddhists hung them from the eaves of temples, pagodas and other religious buildings to attract beneficial spirits and drive away malevolent ones. Eventually they were adopted by the secular world, and people began to hang them in their homes and gardens for their pleasing sound and to call good luck. The wind chime below combines the good luck associated with a wind chime and the luck attracting power of Maneki Neko, the beckoning cat.

This Beckoning Cat wind chime comes from Tokoname, Aichi prefecture, near Nagoya. The head is a miniature of the giant Maneki Neko head that has become a civic symbol in Tokoname. The five yen coin (go ‘en), which is used to attach the body to the head, is also a good luck symbol or charm (a Japanese word for “fate” is pronounced “en” and “go en” means something like “fortunate/good fate”).

So, this wind chime combines three different good luck amulets (wind chime, Beckoning Cat, go ‘en coin) to bring the owner exceptional good fortune!

With thanks to Jean-Pierre Antonio, Suzuka International University

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Show me your Nekos, New York! *

1 Aug

By Jacqueline Pearce, author of the children’s book, Mystery of the Missing Luck (http://wildink.wordpress.com/)

Although Lucky Cats are originally from Japan, the world’s Chinatowns are a great place to find them. And what better place to look than in one of the largest and oldest Chinatowns in North America, New York City’s? Even before I got to Manhattan’s Chinatown neighbourhood I spied some gold Lucky Cats amid the New York souvenirs on a street vendor’s cart near Battery Park.

I love the old buildings, colours, and wrought iron fire escapes in New York’s Chinatown. By 1870, there were about 200 Chinese immigrants living in the neighbourhood around Mott Street, Park, Pell and Doyers Streets, east of the notorious Five Points district, which was New York’s most derelict and overcrowded slum area at the time. By 1900, there were 7,000 Chinese residents in the area, but fewer than 200 were women (thanks to the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, which made it difficult for the men who had come to North America to work on the railroads, etc. to then bring their wives and families over).

Today, there are 90,000-100,000 residents in Manhattan’s Chinatown, but growth has slowed due to high rents, and many Chinese immigrants are now moving to suburbs or the newer Chinatown neighbourhoods of Flushing and Brooklyn.

I don’t know when the first Lucky Cats found their way to New York, but walking along streets such as Hester, Pell and Canal today, they look back at you from many windows.

(Notice the “I ♥ China” hats in front of the shop below)

(Lucky Cat or Lucky Rabbit?)

(Ever wonder what the Lucky Cat sees as it looks out at you?)

There were no signs of any Lucky Cats/Maneki Nekos in the very good Japanese restaurant I ate dinner in on my last night in New York, but I don’t think I saw a single Chinese restaurant without one. Here’s the one that welcomed me on my first night in the city, performing its beckoning job well (luckily, the food was good too).

Goodbye, New York! I had a lot of fun searching out your Lucky Cats (not to mention a few other sights). Keep those paws beckoning (you too, Liberty), and I’ll be back.

*Thanks to Marlene Zach, one of Lucky Cat – Maneki Neko‘s fans on Facebook, for the phrase used in the title of this post