Of the numerous cute Japanese souvenirs for cat enthusiasts, there would be nothing more memorable than a self-made maneki-neko, or lucky cat. Café Nekoemon in one of northern Tokyo’s traditional districts, Yanaka, offers the opportunity to make your very own maneki-neko accompanied by a cute paw-shaped biscuit and a drink of your choice.

lucky cat manekineko yanaka
Photo by Bjorn

The beckoning call of a lucky cat

Maneki-neko is a cat-shaped Japanese figurine, which is considered to bring good fortune to its owner. You will most likely have noticed one of these cute little felines lurking around at the entrance of a shop or restaurant and wondered what it actually means. While the origin of maneki-neko is unsure, people generally accept that when the cat holds up its right paw the cat lures in good luck and wealth, while an upright left paw welcomes customers. Recently ones with both paws raised are also made, but they are sometimes considered to be rather ominous, as they look like as if they surrendered due to bankruptcy.

Calico-colored maneki-neko are the most predominant one, but there are also black ones to repel evil spirits, gold ones to lure even more monetary fortune and red ones to protect owners from diseases.

lucky cat manekineko yanaka
Photo by Bjorn

Making your very own good fortune

You can find maneki-neko in various stores around Japan, but for a very personal touch Café Nekoemon let’s you enjoy making your own one-of-a-kind maneki-neko to commemorate your visit.

lucky cat manekineko yanaka
Photo by Bjorn

Boasting a relaxing atmosphere in Japanese traditional building, the friendly staff of Café Nekoemon will provide you with a plain white ceramic maneki-neko to let loose your creative spirit. You can also take a look at many of their cute and artistic samples to have some inspiration if necessary. In case you need some break, enjoy some drink as well as multiple cat-inspired sweets, with which you can surely picture your dream maneki-neko. Your unique maneki-neko will be carefully wrapped so no harm will come to your fortune.

Stroll around the traditional district of Yanaka

After all that hard work on your maneki-neko, making a relaxing stroll around Yanaka is highly recommended. The district nicely preserves the nostalgic ambiance of Tokyo in the past decades. You can really get a feel for local life while walking along Yanaka Ginza, a shopping street with a number of local shops which have been operating for decades. Yanaka is also well known for its large population of wild cats, so if you spot some, simply follow them casually and naturally explore this old part of modern Tokyo, reminiscing about its old gems.

Access and opening hours

Yanaka is a less-than-10-minute walk from the west exit of Nippori Station on JR Yamanote line. It is also within walking distance from other Shitamachi districts, Nezu and Sendagi, so feel free to pop  by there as well if you have some more spare time.

Café Nekoemon is located between Nippori Station and Sendagi Station on the Chiyoda line, a 10 minutes’ walk from Nippori Station and 6 minutes’ walk from Sendagi Station. Its opening hours are from 11:00 to 19:00, but note that it is closed on Mondays. When you feel like you need a break from busy central Tokyo, Yanaka’s maneki-neko will be there to beckon you in!

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