At first glance Kyoto can disappoint first-time visitors. Known for a wealth of beautiful gardens and elegant temples and shrines, much of the city’s charm is tucked away on narrow, winding alleyways and paths that can only be discovered and explored on foot. Such a place is Sannen-zaka, “Three-Year-Hill”, a historic lane leading up to Kiyomizu-dera, one of Kyoto’s most renowned temples. The area is packed with restaurants and gift shops catering to tourists. As I descended the steps of Sannen-zaka I couldn’t help but notice a store window devoted both inside and out to “maneki-neko,” those ubiquitous ceramic cats with upraised paw.