Manekineko designed to generate prosperity threatens to do the opposite, leaving us with nothing but zekku.

In today’s day and age, where we’ve become desensitised to a lot of things through access to the Internet, there are less opportunities to use the Japanese word “zekku“, which means “lost for words“.

However, that’s the word our reporter P.K. Sanjun used to describe his state of mind not just once but thrice in two days recently, starting with the moment our boss Yoshio called him over with this request.

“Hey, don’t you want to make more money and increase your salary? Though everyone’s been working hard, I’ve realised one thing’s missing. We don’t have enough lucky cats.

If we can get our hands on a lucky cat, our business will undoubtedly prosper! You’ve always been a reliable worker, so if I give you 10,000 yen (US$68.59) can you buy us the lucky cat when it goes on sale at Starbucks tomorrow? Once you’ve become a fashionable member of the upper crust like me, lucky cats won’t work unless they’re Starbucks class.”

▼ Yoshio’s unusual request, and his smiling “pretty please” face, left P.K. lost for words.

The sad nature of the Japanese office worker is they can’t really disobey the boss’s orders so P.K., being rendered speechless, simply nodded and took the 10,000 yen.

That was just the beginning of the surprises in store for P.K., though, as he would find himself lost for words the very next day when he arrived at the Starbucks Reserve Roastery Tokyo, where the cat was sold exclusively.

▼ Holding the 10,000 yen entrusted to him by Yoshio, P.K. arrived at the store at around 11:30 a.m. on 13 December.

Browsing the showcases inside, P.K. was surprised to see just how pretty the new lineup of New Year’s items were. With 2024 being the Year of the Dragon, this mythical beast was the star of the show, appearing on a number of items like the dragon bells, priced at 4,800 yen each.

What makes these items even more special is the fact that they’re made by Shimada Koen, an esteemed doll maker in Higashiyama, Kyoto, which was founded in 1859.

▼ Shimada Koen is located on the Ninen-zaka path that leads up to Kiyomizudera.

Shimada Koen has been producing auspicious New Year’s dolls and figures for the Reserve Roastery since at least 2020, with fans now eagerly awaiting the release every winter.

The lucky talismans are handmade individually by craftsmen, making them incredibly sought after, but no matter how hard P.K. looked, he couldn’t find the lucky cat his boss had tasked him to purchase.

He decided to approach a staff member to ask them about it, but first he wanted to check if he had enough money to buy the handcrafted item, so he asked them, “Excuse me, how much is the lucky cat?” When he heard the response, he was hit by a second wave of zekku, because they said, with a smile:

▼ “It’s 60,000 yen.”

P.K. blinked in amazement as those numbers floated around his head before eventually settling in. That’s US$412.12 in current-day terms, which is waaaay more than he’d ever expected to pay for a beckoning cat, and what’s more, his boss had only given him 10,000 yen to cover the costs.

Was he expecting P.K. to pay the extra 50,000 yen from his own pocket? For a lucky item designed to bring in money, this talisman was certainly doing more to deplete funds than generate them. Still, he figured it might be worth the investment — if it cost this much to purchase, perhaps it would bring in an enormous amount of prosperity, so he asked the staff if the beckoning cat was available.

That’s when P.K. experienced his third hit of zekku, when they told him:

“Sorry, it’s already sold out.”

At this point, P.K. felt like he needed to sit down to deal with all these stunning revelations. Not only did the cat cost 60,000 yen — largely due to the fact that it’s covered in platinum foil instead of gold leaf — it had sold out in the blink of an eye, meaning there were people out there who were willing and eager to drop that amount of cash on the item.

According to the staff member he spoke to, they had more than 10 lucky cats in stock when they opened at 7:00 a.m. but they sold out in an hour, with some people even lining up before the store opened to purchase them.

In what seemed like an attempt to ease the blow of the sold-out news to P.K., although silently inside he was thankful he didn’t have to purchase the item, staff told him Shimada Koen in Kyoto sold similar lucky cats, albeit in a slightly different colour, given that they weren’t Starbucks items.

So if you’d like to purchase a beckoning cat that costs more than you’d pay for an actual cat, feel free to pop by Shimada Koen in Kyoto. For P.K., a trip to the old capital is a step too far in his search for prosperity — this is the year of taxes, after all — so once he’s returned the cash to his boss, he’ll have to find peace with his current income, and put up with Yoshio’s zany schemes for a while longer too!

Images © SoraNews24, PR Times
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