This lovely little museum nestled in the green hills of the North ward of Okayama City in an area called Kanayamaji is dedicated to “manekineko”, or “lucky cats”. Cats are not native to Japan, but were brought over from China on trading vessels in the Nara period (710-794) to keep rodents in check on the journey.
Although cats were imported into Japan, the concept of the manekineko was not. Despite the fact that these figurines can be seen in shop fronts throughout Asia, they were originally crafted in Japan and are an original piece of Japanese culture.
Once in Japan, cats were regarded as lucky and useful, and as they were easy to domesticate, they became popular as pets. As they were natural hunters, they protected harvested rice from mice, which reinforced their image as lucky animals. Manekineko figurines also became popular. The items in the museum began from a personal collection of antique figurines and has grown to over 700 pieces. It is the oldest and largest museum of cat figurines in the country and is a must-see for cat lovers.
There is such a large variety of these cat figurines on display in every possible pose, color, size and material. As you walk through each section of this well-maintained rustic structure, you are sure to see one that speaks to you in particular.
The shop in front of the museum sells a wide selection of manekineko figures which make for perfect keepsakes. It might be a good idea to pick one up there because it is highly unlikely that you will come across these exact miniature works of art elsewhere.
The museum attracts all kinds of visitors, with both children and adults from around Japan and the world stopping by to write their wish for the future on a small card provided by the staff. These are then displayed on a designated wall of the museum.
Enjoy a unique collection of cat statues and statuettes that you will never forget.
Access: It is about a 20 minute taxi ride from JR Okayama Station.
About the Area
Okayama City is best known for its black ‘crow castle’ and adjacent Kourakuen Garden, but this city is undergoing rapid change and growth which has created new attractions for visitors. Momotaro Odori is the central boulevard that runs from the east side of Okayama Station toward the museum-rich Cultural Zone. The Prefectural Museum of Art, located a few blocks off the end of Momotaro Odori, showcases Japanese artists and regularly exhibits works on consignment from international museums and private collections. At the heart of the city, Okayama Station is a transportation hub and a nexus for shopping and dining.
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