This is another Japanese folk tale called Neko no Sara (Cat’s Plate).
In the era when Tokyo was known as Edo, there was an antique shop owner, who would scout the city for antiques that the owners would have without any knowledge of their true value. This way he would buy them for a low price and would make a big profit when he sold them to collectors.
Once he visited a house, where an old war helmet was being used as a flower pot. He told the mistress of the house, “Look at those pretty flowers, but the ugly helmet ruins their beauty. Why don’t you plant them in a nice vase?”
The mistress replied, “But vases are expensive. I could not afford one.”
“Don’t worry, I will bring one over, and you can use it for your flowers. I have several vases lying around at home.”
Thus he brought a vase to plant the flowers in, and carried away the helmet. A few weeks later, he sold the helmet for an amount five times the price of the vase. He was very happy with the way he found his antiques.
One day, he was on one of his scouting trips, and was tired after spending the whole day without spotting any antiques. So, he stopped at a roadside stall for some tea and snacks. As he waited for his tea, he spotted that the stall owner had three cats, and they ate out of an old, cracked bowl. On looking carefully, he noticed that the bowl was definitely something that could fetch at least three hundred gold coins were a collector to set his eyes on it.
A plan started forming in his head, and he picked up one of the cats, and started petting it.
The stall owner arrived with the tea, and seeing the guest playing with the cat, he warned, “Please be careful okyakusama, the cat may scratch you.”
“Oh no, I love cats. I know how to play with them.”
After the antique shop owner had finished his meal, he paid the stall owner, and sat down to play some more with the cat. A few minutes later, he said, “Would you give me this cat?”
The stall owner was very surprised.
Seeing his expression, the antique shop owner said, “Of course, I will pay you. In fact, I will pay you three gold coins for this cat.”
“This cat? Why would you pay three gold coins for such a dirty cat?”
“Well, my wife and I have no children. So we had a cat for company. But last week he ran away, and my wife has been very sad since then. She would be very happy to see this adorable creature.
“I insist you sell me this cat.” Having said this, he put three gold coins on the table. The stall owner was surprised, but collected the money.
As he was leaving, the antique shop owner picked up the cat’s feeding bowl. The stall owner stopped him and asked why he was taking the cracked old bowl.
“Well, the cat will not eat out of any other bowl, would it?”
“You don’t need to worry about that. This cat is not that particular. Here, take this nice new bowl for the cat.”
“No, no, I would like to feed the cat in this bowl, since it habitually eats in it.”
Now the stall owner said, “Actually I cannot let you take this old cracked bowl away. It is worth at least three hundred gold coins.”
The antique shop owner tried very hard to look surprised, and exclaimed, “Three hundred gold coins?! Then why do you feed your cats in it?”
The stall owner replied, “That way, I often sell a dirty cat for three gold coins.”