On our recent trip to LA, and a previous trip to San Francisco, I've been obsessed with buying various versions of the Maneki Neko, the iconic Japanese cat statues with upraised paw, holding on to a gold coin with the other paw.
"Maneki Neko" translates literally to "welcoming cat," and its paw beckons to people in the Asian style, palm out and fingers moving down to say "yo! come here!"
I grew up seeing these cat statuettes everywhere in Japan, so they're a part of my childhood memories. I always liked seeing them in Japaneses businesses here in the U.S. But in recent years, the Maneki Neko, which is supposed to bring good fortune, wealth (if the right paw's raised) or more customers (if the left paw's raised), has become a familiar site at all sorts of Asian businesses from Korean restaurants to Asian gift stores and souvenir shops. There are a dizzying array of neko styles, shaoes and sizes.
I keep buying tiny porcelain ones, but this time in LA, I had to have a silly plastic one that's solar-powered with three cats -- one large one and two kittens -- whose heads bob back and forth. Some solar powered ones wave their paws, but something about the bobbing heads makes me smile, so I have it on my cube wall at the office.