The hunt for a Maneki neko (a.k.a the beckoning cat) in Chinatown

Ever since our weekend in Ottawa, where my 6-year-old decided she wanted a Maneki neko as a souvenir of her visit (???), we’ve had a trip to Toronto’s Chinatown on our ‘to do’ list.

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While we were strolling through the colourful Toronto neighbourhood that populates the area where Spadina and Dundas Street meet, I explained to my daughter that the ‘welcoming cat’ she saw in the window of the Ottawa cafe was NOT in fact ‘Ottawan’ (or even Canadian) but rather a figurine, a talisman, of Japanese descent.

After I shared the significance of which paw the cat figurine is holding up – the left paw is supposed to attract customers while the right invites wealth and good fortune to its owner – she was even more keen to spend her allowance. Thank you Wiki for making me look highly intelligent to my daughter on this ‘foreign’ topic. She never asked why we were looking for her Japanese figurine in Chinatown but Wikipedia had me prepped for it if she had. IMG_3769 IMG_3785 IMG_3787 IMG_3793After taking in all the sights, sounds and smells on the streets, we headed into the shops determined to find our Maneki neko (a.k.a the lucky cat, money cat, happy cat or fortune cat).

What I love about (any) Chinatown is how very far away from where you are that you can feel when you step inside the stores and restaurants. In many ways it really is like being transported to a bustling street in China itself.

IMG_3800 IMG_3813 IMG_3815 IMG_3817 IMG_3814Heading into only our 3rd store, we hit the jackpot – shelves of Maneki nekos. Now it was just a matter of my little shopper choosing her preferred size and colour. While calico is the most traditional colour combo, we also saw many that were white or gold – each, of course, having its own significance.


In the end she chose this white Maneki neko with a battery-operated beckoning paw. The white colour is supposed to represent happiness, purity and good fortune. It now sits on her bedroom windowsill welcoming passersby and guests. I do hope it brings her happiness and good fortune but ‘purity’ sounds really good to this mom.

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