Pokémon: why Meowth wears a coin on his head
Meowth is one of the most recognizable Pokémon due to the coin adorning its forehead, a trait possibly inspired by traditional Japanese figurines.
In Pokemon, Meowth is easily recognized by the gold coin placed in the center of his forehead, a reference to a traditional Japanese figurine. The cream-colored cat Pokémon species was introduced in the original Pocket monsters: red and greenreleased in Japan before the series has arrived in North America. One Meowth in particular figures prominently as a member of Pokemonthe antagonist of Team Rocket in the anime, and is the main source of characterization for the Pokémon. Coin-adorned Meowth is heavily inspired by Japanese figurines known as maneki-neko, which means “beckoning cat”.
Maneki-neko are found at the entrances of businesses across Japan and serve as good luck charms. They are traditionally small statues of a cream or calico colored cat, made of ceramic or plastic, with one paw raised in a gesture of appeal. Maneki-neko are believed to bring good fortune, and some of the Meowth sprites in older Pokemon games are positioned seated with one or both legs raised, like a maneki-neko. Many maneki-neko hold or wear an Edo-era koban coin as decoration, and the coin worn in the center of Meowth’s forehead resembles one.
The Pay Day move, originally exclusive to the Meowth line, awards the player extra money after a battle. Regional variants of Meowth follow PokemonThe first generation of , and the Galarian evolution Perrserker, retain the Koban coin. Meowth’s original evolution, Persian, swaps the room for a little gem, continuing the theme of visual richness. As a Twitter user AshandSerena points out, Meowth’s Gigantamax form of Pokémon Sword and Shield replaces the koban coin with an ōban coin, a larger gold coin of the same era worth ten koban. The kanji on the Gigantamax Meowth coin appears to read, “big.”
Origins of Meowth Coin Wear Inspiration, the Maneki-Neko
The origins of maneki-neko are uncertain. One theory states that they are related to a Chinese proverb that says if a cat washes its face, it will rain. A popular tale tells of a shopkeeper picking up a hungry cat and the cat rewarding its savior by sitting in front of the store and waving to customers. Another legend involves a samurai hiding from a storm under a large tree, where they see a cat beckoning him to a temple. Historical samurai also inspired Ghost of Tsushima and sekiro. When the hidden samurai walks away from the tree in the maneki-neko tale, lightning strikes the tree, destroying it. Grateful, the samurai becomes patron of the temple and builds a statue commemorating the cat.
Meowth may also be inspired by a yōkai called the bakeneko, or “changed cat”. The Japanese Pokédex entry for Meowth calls it the bakeneko Pokémon. Folk legends of bakeneko include cats splitting their tails in two, licking oil from the lamp, speaking human words, casting curses, and transforming into humans. These tales likely inspired Team Rocket’s Meowth in the Pokemon anime, who is reputed to be able to speak.
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