This is Maneke Neko, the ubiquitous beckoning cat. She is used as a good luck charm, and is found in many homes and businesses throughout Japan, where she is expected to bring prosperity. Maneki comes in several colors; some of these have additional meanings- black Nekos protect against evil; red protects from spirits or illness. Modern versions come in a variety of colors- gold for money, pink for love, and so on.
There are various stories about the origin of Maneke Neko. The most popular tales involve a cat who belongs to a poor but generous Monk. In the story, the cat variously welcomes a wealthy man in from the rain, or saves his life; the grateful rich man bequeaths his fortune to the temple. Eventually, the cat dies, and the grateful monk creates the Maneki Neko as a memorial statue.