If you’re a fan of roadside attractions, quirky collector’s items, Japanese culture, or cats, you’ll find an unlikely treasure trove tucked into an artists’ collective in Cincinnati. The Lucky Cat Museum, owned and operated by local collector Micha Robertson, is home to over 700 cats and cat-themed items. And these aren’t just any cats: they’re Lucky Cats, or “Maneki Neko” (Japanese for “beckoning cats,” or cats with one paw raised in a welcoming gesture). You might recognize them from the windows of Asian restaurants.
Maneki Neko were considered lucky charms in Japan’s Edo era, and today’s collectors continue to believe the cheery kitties bring good fortune to those who display them. Micha Robertson must have a lot of good luck! She started collecting Lucky Cat items over a decade ago. When her population of paw-waving cats outgrew her home, she moved them into Cincinnati’s Essex Studios—a former clothing factory refashioned into a working artists’ collective. The still-growing collection became the Lucky Cat Museum, one of several Maneki Neko museums across the globe.
Today, the collection is home to over 700 Lucky Cats in many forms, from household items such as lamps and clocks to plush toys, paintings, apparel, keychains, bells, books and stationery, and even pricey collectors’ items crafted by Japanese designers. The collection even boasts a cat-themed casino game, a working bank, and a giant inflatable Maneki Neko.
You can interact with plenty of the Lucky Cats in this strange, hidden gem of a museum, from a golden egg machine to singing toys. One of the museum’s key draws for tourists is its endearing mix of retro vinyl collectibles, high-end art pieces, and kitschy child’s play. Whether you are an antique aficionado or simply a lover of strange obsessions, you’ll find something to enchant you. And make sure to take note of which cats are righties and which are lefties. The ones raising their right paws are pushing for prosperity, Robertson says, while cats with their left paws in the air will bring a slew of customers to your door.
The Lucky Cat Museum has limited hours to accommodate Robertson’s work schedule. You can visit the museum Tuesday–Saturday from 3–6 p.m. Hours are extended four times a year, from 3–10 p.m., during Cincinnati’s Essex ArtWalks. A tour usually lasts 30 to 45 minutes, and you’ll want to bring a camera to take plenty of pictures.