Japan has several unique lucky charms, but this article will introduce the particularly popular “daruma doll” and “maneki neko,” otherwise known as “lucky cats.” Both are considered to be lucky charms, but be sure to pay attention to the different connotations. We have scored the following lucky charms that you can buy online based on price, quality, and craftsmanship to aid you in your shopping journey.
Japanese Lucky Charms: What Are Daruma Dolls?
“Daruma dolls” are lucky charms unique to Japan. People fill in the left eye with black ink while making a wish, and then fill in the right eye when the wish comes true.
Daruma dolls originated in the Edo period (1603 – 1868), and it is said that the white-eyed daruma doll came about in the 1800s, during the latter part of the Edo period. They were originally sold with black eyes, but were met with criticisms from customers complaining that they didn’t like the eyes. So, the eyes would be filled in if there was an order to do so, or the customers would fill in the eyes themselves.
Nowadays, daruma dolls remain extremely popular, with people filling in the left eyes wishing for academic success, victory, or success in business, and filling in the right eye if and when the wish comes true.
Related article: ▶ The Complete Guide to Traditional Japanese Crafts
Japanese Lucky Charms: What Are Maneki Neko?
Similar to daruma dolls, “maneki neko” or “lucky cats” are lucky charms unique to Japan that beckon good fortune, often portrayed as white cats.
There are several origin stories for the maneki neko, but a popular theory is that the modern maneki neko evolved from versions created during the Edo period in Asakusa in the Edo region (modern-day Tokyo) by craftspeople from Mikawa Province (modern-day Aichi Prefecture) who moved to the area along with the shogun (general) Ieyasu Tokugawa. These maneki neko prototypes became quite popular, setting the foundation for modern lucky cats. Today, you’ll see them decorating homes and stores to beckon good luck and fortune.
Generally, maneki neko with a raised right hand are supposed to beckon wealth, while a raised left hand beckons patrons. Furthermore, there are also many lucky cats holding traditional Japanese gold coins, which are decorated with words that have many different meanings. The “両” (ryo) in “千万両” (senmanryo) is the name of ancient Japanese currency, and one of the gold coins is worth approximately 300 thousand yen in modern currency, therefore the maneki neko beckons wealth, too. Other lucky phrases include “開運” (kaiun, better fortune) and “招福” (shofuku, good luck charm). These lucky cats can even be found holding sea bream or mini daruma dolls!
1. Shop Next Handmade Japanese Daruma Doll Red Size-1
This high-quality daruma doll is made in Japan and has quite a common shape, but is on the smaller side. Draw in the daruma’s left eye with black ink while making a wish. As the faces are painted by hand, no two expressions are exactly the same.
Item Dimensions: 3.54” x 3.94” x 4.33” (9.0 cm x 10.0 cm x 11.0 cm)
Brand: Shop NEXT
2. Daruma Fortune Dolls (4.7cm, Set of 10, Made in Japan)
This set is made up of tiny, charming daruma dolls that are only 1.8” (4.5 cm) tall. What makes this set special is that each color is supposed to represent a different wish. As the dolls are quite small, it may be difficult to draw the eyes in, but they make adorable decorations and are perfect for children as well. However, it is important to keep them out of reach from babies and small children. As they are made from Japanese washi paper, this price is quite reasonable.
Item Dimensions: H1.8” (4.5 cm)
Color: Red / 9 other colors available
Material: Paper (Japanese Washi Paper) and Clay
Brand: Takasaki Daruma
5. Edo Daruma (Large) Nishijin Pink | Edo Art Dolls
This daruma doll is made from Nishijin-ori, a luxurious and traditional woven craft from Kyoto that is often used for kimono. It is the result of fusing the daruma doll craft with traditional Edo-Kimekomi, a kind of doll made in Tokyo in which the fabric is tucked into grooves in the wooden base. Each one is made by skilled craftspeople, and is a masterpiece showing off their beautiful craftsmanship. These daruma dolls are perfect as gifts for special occasions, and the price could even be considered cheap due to the amazing quality.
4. Made in Japan Lucky Cat 6.3” Tokoname Porcelain White Maneki Neko Right Hand
This lucky cat is a kind of Tokoname ware, a type of ceramic from Shizuoka Prefecture with a history going back at least 900 years. Shizuoka originally flourished as a producer of jars and pots, but nowadays it is known for its Japanese teapots. This Tokoname ware maneki neko is made in a typical shape, and “senmanryo” is written on the coin. This, along with the raised right hand, means that it is best placed at an entrance to beckon wealth. The price is extremely reasonable considering the convenient size and good quality.
Item Dimensions: 3.94” x 4.33” x 6.3” (10.0 cm x 11.0 cm x 16.0 cm)
Brand: Tokoname Maneki Neko
5. [Beckoning (Lucky) Cat] Kata Koto Maneki Neko White | Hizen Yoshida Wares
This white lucky cat is a piece of Hizen Yoshida ware, created in Saga Prefecture. Dating back 400 years, this type of craft uses porcelain stone, allowing for a smooth surface. The pure white maneki neko represents “kaiun” (better fortune), so it is thought to bring all types of good luck. It is quite reasonably priced considering the size and quality, and would make for a wonderful decoration. There is also a black lucky cat version. Black cats are thought to have good night vision and great spiritual power, so the black maneki neko are thought to be good luck and are used to ward off evil and bring happiness, and are even used in Kyoto to bring thriving business.
Item Dimensions: W3.11” × D4.13” × H5.90” (W7.9 cm * D10.5cm * H15.0 cm)
Color: White / Black
Brand: WakuWaku Office (Hizen Yoshida Ware)
6. Beckoning (Lucky) Cat] Maneki Neko, Wish To The Star (Crepe Multicolor) | Edo Art Dolls
Slightly different from the usual maneki neko, these lucky cats appear to be wishing upon a star, and are quite popular in Japan due to being an adorable parent-child pair. Similar to the daruma doll introduced earlier, these maneki neko are made by hand by skilled Edo-Kimekomi doll craftspeople. Cat lovers certainly cannot let these slip through their fingers! Of course, they also have the same lucky properties as the other lucky charms, and make for wonderful decorations. They are extremely reasonably priced considering the quality.
Item Dimensions: L: H6.10″ * W2.76″ * D3.54″, M: H4.92″ * W2.36″ * D3.15″, S: H3.94″ * W2.17″ * D2.36″(L: H15.5 cm * W7.0 cm * D9.0 cm, M: H12.5 cm * W6.0 cm * D8.0 cm, S: H10.0 cm * W5.5 cm * D6.0 cm)
Material: Rayon, high-performance resin
Brand: Kakinuma Dolls (Edo Art Dolls)
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*These products may not be able to be shipped to certain countries. Please see the retailer’s website for more information.
The information in this article is accurate at the time of publication.