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