Each character, appearing in stories passed down by generations and beloved by people both young and old, is embedded with a message of positivity and encouragement. Hello Kitty is a master of disguise and can easily pull off just about any look she’s tasked with as well, which she does with aplomb here, just as expected!
Symbol of: Good luck, connections, and prosperity
Where: At restaurants & businesses
Features: Holds a coin and raises other paw in a welcoming manner
Details: Generally they’re depicted as calico Japanese Bobtail cats, although different cat breeds may be seen. It’s said that the infamous Meowth character from Pokemon was inspired by the Maneki Neko.
Symbol of: Rising above adversity & challenge
Where: Get one from a Buddhist temple to take home
Features: Red in color and made of papier-mâché
Details: The name comes from Bodhidharma, a Buddhist monk who lived 1400 years ago. Daruma eyes are blank. This is to give you time to think of a goal, and you draw in one eye once you decide your goal. The second eye is drawn in once you’ve accomplished said goal.
Symbol of: Safe childbirth and protecting children
Where: Decorates homes and nurseries
Features: They carry a ‘dendendaiko’ drum on their backs, a traditional toy used to calm babies.
Details: Crafted in the same papier-mâché method as Daruma, these charms are made in the shape of dogs, as they’ve been considered guardians of the home & family since the Edo period (1603-1867).
Symbol of: Good luck and happiness
Where: Special shrines & temples dedicated to the Shichifukujin throughout Japan
Features: Often depicted together on a treasure ship called the ‘Takarabune’ in a lighthearted mood.
Details: ‘Shichifukujin’ means ‘Seven Gods of Good Fortune’, and this group of deities is well-known and extremely popular. They sail to the human realm on the first three days of New Year celebrations to bring blessings along the way. Originally from Buddhism, Taoism, and local Japanese origin, they’re all now revered as a single unit.
Symbol of: Joy, good luck, and fortune
Where: Displayed outside homes, restaurants and shrines
Features: Wears a straw hat and carries a bottle of sake
Details: The tanuki, also known as the Japanese raccoon dog, is depicted in Japanese folklore as mischievous & clever, yet fun-loving and easily distracted. A play on the name ‘tanuki’, ‘ta’ means ‘others’ and ‘nuki’ means ‘to surpass’, which is why spotting a tanuki in the wild means your goals will be supported.
Symbol of: Hope & new beginnings
Where: Mainly in Japan & East Asia
Features: Seen in varying shades of pink & white; some varieties have up to 50 petals per flower.
Details: When this popular symbol of Japan blooms in spring, they have a short stay of about two weeks. This fragility is meant to remind onlookers of life’s delicateness.
And there you have it! Did you know any of these characters or personalities beforehand? Or are there any that particularly stand out to you? Additionally, do you notice any similarities between folktales from your own country and these? Let us know in the comments below!
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