Translated by Misaki
A Must See For Cat Lovers! Gotokuji Temple Is Full Of Maneki Neko
Gotokuji Temple, located in Setagaya, Tokyo, is famous for its numerous "maneki neko" or "beckoning cats" that welcome visitors. Let us introduce you to the highlights of this temple.
Written by Sawada Tomomi
Gotokuji Temple, found in Setagaya, Tokyo, is famous for its numerous maneki neko or "beckoning cats" that welcome visitors. There are other temples well-known for them in Japan, but a temple that has this many maneki neko is quite rare.
Let us introduce you to these charming cats at Gotokuji Temple.
About Gotokuji Temple
Some say that Gotokuji Temple is the origin of the Maneki Neko. Naotaka Ii (1590 - 1659), a daimyo (feudal lord) of the Edo Period was believed to have been saved from a thunderstorm by a cat inviting him into this temple. Since then, Maneki Neko have been enshrined here as they are believed to bring luck.
The shrine is located at about a 10-minute-walk from Gotokuji station on the Odakyu Line or at about a 5-minute-walk from Miyanosaka station on the Tokyu Setagaya Line. Gotokuji station is only 15 minutes away from Shinjuku station. How about going on a little adventure after shopping in Shinjuku?
Purify Your Body and Soul with Incense
When you go through the front gate you will see this statue of a lion right in front of the main shrine. Before approaching the shrine, you should light a stick of incense and place it right below the statue.
Incenses and lighters are provided at the site. Just light the tip of the incense and place it in the ashes like in the picture above.
Burning incense symbolizes the purification of one's body and soul as well as interaction with Buddha. By knowing the deeper meaning behind it, burning incense at a temple might feel a lot more rewarding. Go ahead and give it a try.
Cats Here and Cats There! Cats Everywhere!
If you walk past the large incense holder and the big bell, you will find the Maneki Neko on the left.
And here they are, countless Maneki Neko! The entire space is filled with cats!
These Maneki Neko are all offerings from visitors to the temple. This act of giving something precious to a god or Buddha is called hono ("offering"). The Maneki Neko is believed to make wishes come true. Some people believe that by offering them to the Gotokuji Temple after their wishes came true, their good fortune would stay with them. It's because of this belief that so many Maneki Neko have found their way here.
The best time to visit Gotokuji Temple is from January to February if you want to see as many Maneki Neko as possible. This is because hono usually takes place in January. When we visited, there were hundreds of Maneki Neko ranging in size from 3 cm all the way up to 30 cm (1.2 inches to 12 inches) tall.
Did you know that, depending on which paw they are raising, the wish that can be granted differs?
It is said that the right paw beckons money while the left beckons people. Those at Gotokuji Temple are raising their right paws, meaning they grant wishes regarding wealth and prosperity, especially in business.
People often imagine Maneki Neko holding a koban (Japanese gold coin), but those at Gotokuji Temple are all empty-handed. This is because they are believed to be giving you the opportunity of success, but whether you can capture it or not relies entirely on yourself.
Adorable Maneki Neko for Souvenirs
Maneki Neko figures are available for sale at the reception. The smallest size is perfect as a souvenir (300 yen). The size of the Maneki Neko doesn't influence the size of your fortune, so don't worry about size and choose one that best suits you.
They also have good-luck charms for specific wishes such as for family's well-being and for prosperous business in addition to ema ("horse pictures") with images of the Maneki Neko and the zodiac animal of the year
These would make great souvenirs as well!