We are pleased to introduce our new cat toy, “Wa-neko Shrine”!
In Japan, there are many superstitions and traditional patterns that have been believed to signal a good luck from ancient times.
The “Wa-neko Shrine” cat toy features a design that is full of beautiful Japanese sceneries and traditional patterns from the olden days that are believed to be auspicious.
Working with Nyagomidoro’s illustrator, JYAYA, we went over the shape and design of this toy so many times. No other cat toys took as much time in the designing stage!
It’s because the image that I had in my head contained so many elements for the illustration, JYAJYA and I had to go over it so many times firstly to fuse them into one illustration. We couldn’t even decide the shape of the toy to incorporate all of them.
For the elements , there were many candidates such as Chochin (Japanese lanterns), Hagoita (Japanese battledore) and Japanese dolls. JYAJYA drew rough sketches of all of them. In the end, we decided to use the illustration of a napping Cat God, and his body line became the shape of the “Wa-neko Shrine” cat toy itself.
After that, I told JYAJYA how Japan’s beautiful sceneries, lucky charms, and traditional patterns are to be expressed, which I already had the basic idea of. From then on, we worked on the details by looking at the same screen on the computer and exchanging opinions. This process took a very long time.
This is how the “Wa-neko Shrine” cat toy was born!
We had a very fun time designing this because this long process and discussions gave each other so many inspirations.
You might already be familiar with some of these sceneries and patterns and find them nothing extraordinary, but each of them has a profound meaning.
The “Wa-neko Shrine” cat toy is filled with lucky charms and traditional patterns. Below, we share their meanings and where they came from as well as telling you the story behind how they came to be incorporated in the design of the “Wa-neko shrine” toy.
Gods and lucky charms
We, cat lovers believe in Cat Gods without a shadow of doubt. The Cat God according to our imagination is drawn using the whole of one side of the toy. Look out for ancient letters called “Jindai-moji” hidden in the illustration of the Cat God!
The Dragon God in the shape of a cloud. The dragons are believed to form a bridge between the heaven and the Earth, which will bring good lucks and special encounters/special bonds with someone. It represents our wishes for many cats to find their forever home. Also, for people whose cat family has crossed the rainbow bridge, we wanted this Dragon God to be the bridge between them in the heaven and you on the Earth.
Tori-i Shrine Gate
The Tori-i shrine gates are considered to be the boundary between religious practices and the outside world, preventing impurities from entering into the shrines. At “Wa-neko Shrine”, Q-taro and Myu in shrine priests’ kimono are protecting the Cat Shrine in front of the Tori-i gate.
The tallest mountain in Japan, the beautiful Mount Fuji is not only famous but also has been worshipped as the “Goshintai” – divine object (mountain God) from ancient times. It is a holy mountain that Japanese people hold close to our hearts. Its long well-shaped slope is believed to bring good fortune. On the “Wa-neko Shrine” cat toy, it is drawn with the bright sun shining on us.
Shochikubai – pine, bamboo and plum
The pine tree, bamboo and plum are together called “Shochikubai” and are commonly used on the occasions of cerebration and in “Kadomatsu” – the New Year decorations in Japan. All of them have been believed to bring good fortune from ancient times.
“Sho – pine”
The evergreen tree is believed to be a lucky tree that signifies longevity because its foliage remains green throughout the year. The pine tree in the Japanese language also implies the meaning of “waiting for Gods’ arrival”, and gods are believed to dwell on the tree. The “Toshigami” – gods that descend to bring happiness at the beginning of the new year – are believed to use the tree as the signpost – that’s why it is an important part of the “Kadomatsu” new year decorations.
“Chiku – bamboo”
A symbol of vitality and prosperity of descendants because they grow in a short period of time.
“Bai – plum”
A symbol of joy and nobleness because the plum flowers are the first beautiful flower that blooms in the spring after a long, cold winter .
The illustrations on the “Wa-neko Shrine” show pine tree forest (Sho), bamboo forest (Chiku), and plum flowers in full bloom (Bai) separately.
Traditional patterns on “Wa-neko Shrine” cat toy
The “Shippo” pattern is of circles overwrapping by a quarter in an orderly manner. The pattern shows connected circles implying connected bonds – a symbol of a happy home, harmony and special encounters/bonds.
Hemp leaf pattern
Hemp leaves have been considered sacred and used in Shinto rituals in Japan since ancient times. The hemp leaf pattern is a motif of connected leaves in a hexagonal shape, which is thought to be the most robust shape in the natural world. The pattern is believed to protect you from evil spirits and malevolence.
The Shinto-priest kimono worn by Q-taro is of the “Shippo” pattern while Myu’s is of the hemp leaf pattern.
Seigaiha (pattern of blue ocean waves)
The Seigaiha shows infinite continuation of gentle ripples, which symbolizes eternity and wishes for peace.
On the “Wa-neko Cat Shrine” cat toy, the sea is drawn with the Seigaiha.
Chidori – Plover
The name “Chidori” in Japanese can also be pronounced as “sendori”, which means “obtaining one thousand fortunes”, for example, a luck at winning and achieving one’s goals. That’s why it is another pattern that is considered auspicious.
The “Wa-neko Shrine” toy is decorated with these birds on both sides.
Seigaiha and Chidori are drawn separately on the “Wa-neko Shrine” toy, but there is another traditional pattern called “Namichidori” in which these two are combined. This particular pattern means “steering through rough waves (overcome many difficulties) together”, which also fits the concept of the “Wa-neko Shrine” toy , but we decided to draw them separately because we wanted many Chidoris flying around the Wa-neko Shrine.
Message from “Wa-neko Shrine” cat toy
– Heart and soul put into “Wa-neko Shrine” cat toy –
That’s all for the meaning of our gods in Japan, lucky charms, beautiful Japanese sceneries drawn on the “Wa-neko Shrine” cat toy! I hope you enjoyed reading about how we designed the “Wa-neko Shrine” cat toy.
Despite of changes, uncertainties, and difficulties that the whole world has faced since 2019, we have been fortunate to be able to design and make cat toys day in, day out, to deliver to many, many kitties all over the world.
We thought that there is no better time than now to design a toy that embodies Japan’s beautiful nature, the harmony and peace that we, Japanese people have always cherished since the olden times, as well as hopes and wishes that our ancestors have prayed for in the traditional patterns. This is how we came up with the idea of the “Wa-neko Shrine” cat toy.
It is our hope that the “Wa-neko Shrine” cat toy can bring good fortunes to you and your cats, special encounters and bonds with others spread, and your days will be filled with eternal peace, happiness, and smiles.
Written by Hiromi