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Maneki Nekos: Mini's & Multi's
[Note: Please click on the small pictures below to see larger images.] [mix06a]
Mini Maneki's: Small Figurines --
A couple of very small Maneki Nekos. The brass one on the left is about 1/2" (1.3cm) tall & was made to be carried in a coin purse. The package in the photo originally contained three of them. (From Okadakurokawadou in Japan.) The white one on the right is approx 1/4" (7mm) tall & is handmade. (From eBay.) This happy little Maneki is 7/8" (2.2 cm) tall & made of glass: white, red, yellow, & black. Beautiful work by an unknown craftsperson.. This small Lucky Black Cat has found a pretty sake cup to hide in. He's about 1" (2.5 cm) tall. His pretty porcelain cup is 2" (5 cm) wide. Can't tell what he's made of or where he comes from. A water-filled glass snowglobe with a "Money Cat" inside, standing on a pile of gold coins. Glitter & more gold coins swirl around him. The globe sits on a big lucky money bag of painted ceramic, decorated with lucky charms such as a fish, flower, gourd, &, of course, more gold coins. (Is this kitty beckoning for wealth or what?!) Cat is 1" (2.5 cm) tall; snowglobe + base 2.5" (6.5 cm). From eBay. A mini netsuke called an "ojime" - a bead used to tighten / untighten, the cords running between the netsuke, which is tucked into the belt, & the box ("inro") that the cords support. When the ojime is loosened, the inro can be opened. Hand-carved from tagua nut "ivory" with inlaid black onyx eyes. 1" / 2.5 cm tall. (Amazing detail!) A Sterling silver Maneki charm in the form of a one-sided pendent. My current pocket lucky charm. He's 1 1/8" (3cm) tall, made in the Tokoname style, & has "925 / @ / PSCL" stamped on his back. I bought him new at the Smoky Mountains Cathouse in Pigeon Forge, TN - Fall, 2008. This Happy Cat lives in a Lucky Gourd. He's 1 1/8" (3 cm) tall, his gourd is 3" (7.5 cm); & both are ceramic. "JAPAN" is stamped on the paper covering a sticky surface on the bottom for mounting him onto a dashboard or whatever. From Great China Market, Memphis. A Maneki Neko made from leather. Purchased from "Old Japan" in Boston, he's 1.25" (5.5 cm) tall, attached to a keychain, has "VANCA" printed onto his lower back. He comes with a brown paper tag reading "THE LEATHER STORY" &, on the reverse side, "Leather Technique / VANCA CRAFT". A handmade Maneki with a comical bearing. Purchased from the artist via eBay. 1.5" (5 cm); synthetic material. Signed on the bottom by the artist. A pair of Hatatsu Maneki Nekos - one left-handed, the other right-handed. To receive the full blessing from the shrine they come from it is necessary to buy one a month for four years, alternating beckoning hands. The 48 are then exchanged for a large one. These were purchased for me - along with a display box - by Ms. Yui Kawai, who has helped me a great deal with my collecting. They are 1 1/2" tall, hand-painted ceramic, and made in Japan. Very cute!  Three little Manekis: one holds a giant turnip; the second (Chinese?) has a square-holed coin & gold ingots; the last (American?) holds up a coin with a dollar sign on it. Each -- 1.5" (3.5 cm), painted molded plastic. ID: #1 has a "WS97", #2 has a "WS97", & #3 has a "WS96". Part of a set purchased new online.
Multi Maneki's: Group Figurines --
I feel lucky to have acquired this beautiful "Mi-ke" (tricolored) Mom-cat & Kitten as I've heard that she's no longer in production. Made of bisque ceramic with handpainted features, she's 2.5" (6cm) tall by 3.5" (9cm) wide, bears a familiar octagonal blue sticker on her back, & comes with an especially nice pillow. A Maneki duo from New Orleans, LA. Sent to me by Diane. Carved wood, 1.75" (4.5 cm) tall, an example of an "okimono" -- It looks like a netsuke piece, but was made purely for looking at. (No holes.)
An unusual yellow & green double-Maneki Mardigras bead. A Mother & her tiny kitten! One of four identical oversized oversized beads on a 40" string of round beads in green, purple, yellow, & gold. 1 3/8" (3.5 cm) tall, no markings, made of that mysterious super-plastic I think of as "redstone" except that this would have to be "yellowstone" eh?! A gift from Barbara S.
A little-bitty Maneki family-of-three group-figurine: only 1 1/8" (3 cm) tall. From Chou's Imports, Memphis. One of my 1st eBay purchases, this group of Three Lucky Kittens came all the way from Hong Kong. They're ceramic, 3.5" x 6.5" (9 x 16.5 cm). A bank, w/ rubber stopper. A beautifully executed group-figurine, representing three of the Seven Deities. Ebisu (the Fisherman), Daikokuten (with his magic mallet), & Hotei (sitting on his endless treasure bag). Lots of paper stickers & characters all over -- Wish I knew what they all meant. I do recognize the "Made in Japan" & the purple octagon sticker. Porcelain; 5" (13 cm) wide. New from the Oriental Best Market in Memphis. Ha! Looks like a Fozzie Bear family to me! An unusual, whimsical style for a Lucky Cat group! And there's lots of luck here! 7 yellow & green Manekis in all! Plus gold ingots, coins, a treasure bag, & let's not forget the tai fish. Molded plastic; 5" (13 cm) tall. From Taiwan. A very interesting group-figurine composed of a large tricolor cat (Mom?); 5 kittens - blue, yellow, pink, green, & red - plus an extra small golden kitty sitting on top of the pink kitten's head. (Not to mention the tiny Daruma held by the blue kitten!) A beautifully made porcelain Maneki with a purple octagon sticker on the back. 5.5" (14cm) tall, with matching mat. From a CalifornieBayan.
A Set of Mini Maneki YUJIN Repros from Japanese Vending Machines --
A collection of 12 miniature Beckoning Cats from the YUJIN company -- painted, molded plastic, bearing the words "YUJIN CHINA" on the underside. Each is a reproduction of a classic Maneki Neko. Ms. Yui Kawai has translated the information from the factsheet that pertains to all twelve. (She also got some of them for me from Yahoo Japan.)
White Mama and Kit with wonderfully colored bibs, 1 3/4" (4.5 cm) tall.
下河原土人形 Shimogawara Tsuchi Ningyou (Shimogawara Clay Doll)
Hiromae City, Aomori Prefecture
By Nobuo Takaya / Material: clay / 10cm tall
The mother cat with a dressy apron and the baby cat on her back are both beckoning. In spite of the small size, these two cats must make your fortune double-sized.
Shimogawara is well-known for the traditional clay flutes shaped like doves (Hatobue). Shimogawara clay dolls have hollow bodies. When you blow into a clay flute, this hollow body makes a simple but beautiful sound. Some Maneki-Nekos made in Shimogawara can also be "played" in this manner. Shimogawara clay doll is the traditional ceramic art started and developed by a samurai from Tsugaru Clan, who learned ceramics at famous Chikuzen Clan kiln in Kyushu.
Imitation paper-mache design with 2 coins, 2 1/4" (5.5 cm).
高崎張り子 Takasaki Hariko (Takasaki Papier-Mache)
Takasaki City, Gunma Prefecture
By Masao Ogiwara / Material: Japanese paper / 30cm tall
Takasaki Papier-Mache Maneki-Nekos have very characteristic whiskers. These Nekos are popular in Kanto region. The home of these Nekos, Gunma Prefecture, once was the most successful sericulture province in Japan. Cats were highly appreciated and even treasured because they kill rats that eat silkworms. It is natural that Maneki Nekos in this area, along with Daruma Dolls, have long been the symbol of good harvest of silk. On New Yearís Day, you can see many Maneki Nekos at the annual Daruma Doll Market in Shorinji Daruma Temple.
Height 1 3/4" (4cm), material is painted, molded plastic, with "YUJIN CHINA" molded onto the bottom.
中野土人形 Nakano Tsuchi Ningyou (Nakano Clay Doll)
Nakano City, Nagano Prefecture
By Hisao Nara / Material: clay / 17cm tall
The mother cat holds a wooden box full of fortune. In her thick warm kimono (with pretty plum blossom pattern), the baby cat is beckoning with his tiny paw. This is a very heart-warming folk toy, full of motherís love. Nakano City is famous for the annual Hina Market [People display dolls called Hina-Ningyou on March 3, the Hinamatsuri day (Japanese doll festival)]. This market is held for only two days a year and many doll collectors gather from all over Japan for these beautiful traditional clay dolls. Nakano clay dolls are also known for this limited availability.
Approx. 2" (5cm) tall, this tricolor has spots of black on gray & also dark brown on light. (Did they run out of paint?) Interesting polka-dot collar.
小幡人形 Kohata Ningyou (Kohata Doll)
Kanzaki County, Shiga Prefecture
By Gengo Hosoi / Material: clay / 18cm tall
Orange and black spots, loud white-dotted red collar with big golden bell, humorous long paw, and this funny face Ė this is a true folk toy that always makes you happy and smiling.
Another popular Neko from this area features a cat balancing on a ball and two mice holding the ball from both sides avoiding the cat from rolling down.
Waving his right paw as he rides his big red fish, this guy is 1 3/4" (4.5cm) tall.
六原張り子 Rokuhara Hariko (Rokuhara Paier-Mache)
Tanzawa County, Iwate Prefecture
By Hanjiro Sawafuji / Material: paper / 16cm tall
With a beckoning cat on a big, auspiciously red fish, this "Maneki Neko on Sea Bream" must bring even more luck [as you know, sea bream (lucky Tai fish) is a lucky symbol in Japan because its name sounds like "Medetai", the Japanese word for "auspicious"].
Both the cat and the fish have lovely round eyes. It has a stable and somewhat heavy shape, contrasting with the playful coloring. Rokuhara papier-mache is a relatively new style of Japanese folk toys, started and developed by Mr. Hanjiro Sawafuji in mid-Showa period [Around 1950ís].
Super long-armed with lots of brightly colored decoration. Actually a 4-colored tricolor cat with spots of black, on top of brown, on top of light brown. Approx 2 1/4" (5.5cm).
春日部張り子 Kasukabe Hariko (Kazugabe Papier-Mache)
Kasukabe City, Saitama Prefecture
By Kenji Igarashi / Material: Paper / 48cm tall
A Maneki Neko with a long beckoning hand is called Tenaga (Long Hand) and it is believed that the longer the beckoning hand, the more luck it can bring in.
Among all traditional Maneki Nekos, this one probably has the longest (and therefore most powerful) beckoning hand. Started in Showa period, Kasukabe Hariko is a relatively new style of Japanese folk toys. Nowadays more than 50 makers are vigorously making many new models of Kasukabe-style Maneki Nekos.
Lady holding a Maneki Neko, back unpainted, underside painted brown, 2 1/4" (5.5 cm).
三河系土人形 Mikawakei Tsuchi Ningyou (Mikawa-style Clay Doll)
Mikawa Region, No longer produced
Maker unknown / Material: Clay / 22cm tall
A beautiful princess is sitting on her legs and a cat is beckoning in her arms. This adorable doll is extremely rare. Nobody can tell exactly where and when it was made, but it is most likely made in Meiji or Taisho period [Early 1900ís] in Mikawa region. The catís face and big black ears are typical for Makawa-style Maneki Nekos. The dollís back is not painted. This suggests that the maker was under the influence of Fushimi-style of doll making, which flourished in Kyoto.
長浜土人形 Nagahama Tsuchi Ningyou (Nagahama Clay Doll)
Hamada City, Shimane Prefecture
By Chikuzan Iwamoto / Material: Clay / 18cm tall
The long tradition of Nagahama-style clay doll started in Meiwa period [1764-1771]. The tradition was once lost in mid-Meiji period [around 1890ís], when clay dolls waned in popularity, and re-introduced in late-Taisho period [1920ís].
Maneki Nekos created by Iwamoto clan members feature large ears on far sides of the head. In addition, this particular Neko is wearing a dressy red apron with classic gold coins printed on it, suggesting that it is made sometime before Showa period, during which Tokoname style Nekos became dominant in the region.
Elegant Neko with soft, somewhat feminine face.
Black with flowers & orange bib, impressed chop-marks, 2" (5 cm).
堤人形 Tsutsumi Ningyou (Tsutsumi Doll)
Sendai City, Miyagi Prefecture
By Yoshio Satou / Material: Clay / 15cm tall
Tsutsumi-style clay doll is one of the three major traditional clay dolls in Tohoku district. The origin of Tsutsumi dolls dates back to Genroku period [1688-1703], developed by some lower-class samurais of Sendai Clan. The creator of this Maneki Neko is from Sato clan, which is also famous for those gorgeous Sendai-style papier-mache Matsukawa Daruma dolls. This lovely Neko is delicately done with fine flower painting on the body. Incidentally, black cats are believed to keep evils away, protecting the owner from criminals and disasters. These days some people buy them as "anti-stalker charms".
White with gray spots, hollow back painted brown, chop-mark impression, 2" (5 cm) tall.
今戸焼 Imadoyaki (Imado Porcelain Ware)
Taitou District, Tokyo
By Yasuji Shirai / Material: Clay / 18cm tall]
There are various theories about the origin of Maneki Neko, many of which are little more than folktales.
However, it is believed that the first cat dolls that are holding one paw up appeared among Imado porcelain dolls sometime in 1850ís or 1860ís. Those early Imado-style cat dolls were called Marujimeneko. This particular white Neko was created by Shirai clan, to which the last existing kiln of Imado porcelain belongs. The simple shape and face follows the style loved by people in Edo [former name of Tokyo, 1603-1868]. The catís body is hollow and there is a hole on the back. This is called "Ooire" ["take in a lot"?] [People believed that good things that the cat beckons would fall in to this hole and be kept in there for long, I guess].
Height 2" (5cm), material is painted, molded plastic, with chop-mark on back & "YUJIN / CHINA" molded onto the bottom. Both figures show slits in sides, as they are both bells in the real world.
名古屋土人形 Nagoya Tsuchi Ningyou (Nagoya Clay Doll)
Nagoya City, Aichi Prefecture
By late Suekichi Noda / Material: Clay / 15cm tall
This is a very auspicious doll featuring an Otafuku [Yet another Japanese lucky symbol Ė plump young woman with amiable smiling face] and a cat beckoning with two paws. The Otafuku and the cat are modeled separately and each is made as a bell. This small but elaborate figure that requires surprisingly fine work is created by the late Suekichi Noda, who made many of these lovely mini-size dolls. The Otafukuís soft smile is also adorable.
Regrettably, the long tradition of Nagoya clay dolls ended with master Nodaís death.
White tricolor with a flowered pillow, 2" (5 cm).
津屋崎人形 Tsuyazaki Ningyou (Tsuyazaki Doll)
Munakata City, Fukuoka Prefecture
By Minoru Harada / Material: Clay / 15cm tall
Gentle and feminine looking Maneki Neko sitting on a soft, fat cushion. Brilliant red, pink, and green colors are like old celluloid toys. This cat could make good friends with Hinamatsuri [Girlís festival] dolls. This type of Maneki Nekos are still being made and sold in Tsuyazaki town, Fukuoka prefecture. Responding flexibly to changes in fashion and Japanese society, various models of Maneki Nekos have been created in the long history of Tsuyazaki dolls.
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