The Maneki Neko, or "beckoning cat", is a traditional Japanese good luck charm, commonly seen in storefronts, placed there to attract business. During the migration process of taking my files from my old computer to my new one, I just took my trusty little Maneki Neko and placed it down in the corner of my desktop and it made me smile.

A guy named Jeremy Hedley had a blog called Antipixel many moons ago, and I stumbled on a post of his which had a nice picture of a Maneki Neko statue that he photographed with his daughter on New Year's Day, six years ago, and turned into a Mac OS X icon, and attached to a .txt file with some great info on the origins of the Maneki Neko:

Maneki Neko (Beckoning Cat)

There are a few legends about the origin of the maneki neko, but the generally accepted one holds that the cat belonged to the priest of Goutokuji (Goutoku Temple) in Setagaya Ward in what is now western Tokyo sometime at the beginning of the Edo period.

The priest of the temple loved his cat and, despite his poverty, shared his food with it as he would with any friend. One day Ii Naotaka, lord of the Hikone district (near Kyoto), was on a hunting trip near the temple when he was caught in a severe storm. He took refuge under a tree in front of the temple but the storm showed no sign of letting up. Ii noticed the cat standing at the temple gate beckoning to him. It seemed to be telling him to come inside. He followed the cat and as he reached the safety of the gate the tree was struck by lightning and destroyed.

Realizing that the cat had saved his life, Ii became friends with the priest and a patron of the temple, saving it from ruin. It's said that when the cat died the priest buried it in an area he set aside in the temple's cemetary. Goutokuji is a short ride from where I write this, and I've been there many times, although I've yet to find the cat's grave....

Small statues of maneki neko are very commonly placed in shop windows in the hope of attracting patronage. These days there are many variations (black cats, calico cats, &c.) but the original Goutokuji cat is the simple white specimen you see in this icon.

The icon was made from a photograph I took of the maneki neko statue my daughter bought at Goutokuji in the early hours of New Year's day, 2003. I hope it brings you all the luck you need.

Jeremy Hedley
Tokyo, Japan

Six years on, this little icon has sat on the desktop of two different computers now (I slide the icon down to the bottom of my screen so the filename is hidden below the bottom edge of the screen; the kitty looks like she's just "sitting there"). It is about to take up station on a third computer, and after six years I'd say it's brought me some good luck, as promised. Sure, my computers have brought me untold headaches (including a few in the last few days), but in general, my computer life, and my real life for that matter, have been good. And I think that's what this time of year is all about, is reflecting on things, and making adjustments to what parts of life ain't working. As I start 2009, I am getting ready to take another Biology class and a Calculus class too, step up to some new work challenges, try and ride my bike and rock climb through the winter and emerge in the spring thaw actually in shape for once, eat better, drink less, and of course, get "organized". That last piece is currently ongoing as I start anew with a new computer, a new user account and a new directory of files from the last 15 years of my life. So, so far, so good. I can't believe the last five days I've had off have basically transpired already, but so be it. Tomorrow I go back to work, a new year, a new corporate owner, a new semester, a few goals and a few projects to complete.

Happy New Year, everyone.