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Gotokuji Temple: Tokyo's Temple of Beckoning Cats

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Gotokuji Temple in Setagaya, Tokyo, is famous for its numerous maneki neko or "beckoning cats" that welcome visitors. Read to learn more about this interesting cat Buddhist temple and the thousands of adorable feline figurines that welcome guests.

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Gotokuji Temple and its Adorable Cats

Gotokuji Temple: Tokyo's Temple of Beckoning Cats

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 very rare.

Let us introduce you to the features of Gotokuji Temple and its charming cats.

About Gotokuji Temple

Gotokuji Temple: Tokyo's Temple of Beckoning Cats

Gotokuji Temple, a Buddhist temple of the Soto Zen school, is best-known as one of the locations considered to be the origin of beckoning cats. Legend has it that Ii Naotaka (1590 - 1659), the feudal lord of the Hikone province, escaped a thunderstorm thanks to a cat that invited him into this temple.

The incident is believed to have happened in 1633. Since then, maneki neko statues have been brought here as donations as they are believed to bring luck.

The temple 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?

Cats Here and Cats There! Cats Everywhere!

A Must See For Cat Lovers! Gotokuji Temple Is Full Of Maneki Nekos

After entering the temple and walking past the large incense holder and a large bell, you will find the maneki neko on the left, surrounding a prayer hall called Shofuku-den.

The Shofuku-den Hall is believed to have been built in memory of the cat that beckoned Ii Naotaka and brought good fortune.

The Shofuku-den enshrines a statue of the Shofuku Kannon, the Buddhist deity of mercy, and Buddhist worshippers come here to pray for the well-being of their families, business prosperity, and happiness.

A Must See For Cat Lovers! Gotokuji Temple Is Full Of Maneki Nekos

The entire space is filled with cats!

These feline figurines 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.

A Must See For Cat Lovers! Gotokuji Temple Is Full Of Maneki Nekos

The wish granted changes depending on which paw the maneki neko are raising.

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

A Must See For Cat Lovers! Gotokuji Temple Is Full Of Maneki Nekos

Maneki neko figures are available for sale at the reception. The smallest size is perfect as a souvenir (around 300 yen). The size of the maneki neko doesn't influence the size of your fortune, so don't worry about the 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 (votive plaques) with images of the maneki neko and the zodiac animal of the year

These would make great souvenirs as well!

Other Highlights at Gotokuji Temple

Gotokuji Temple: Tokyo's Temple of Beckoning Cats

The path to Gotokuji's main gate is lined with majestic pine trees, some stretching up to thirty meters high. Strolling beneath them offers a revitalizing and invigorating experience.

Upon passing through the main gate, a striking three-story wooden pagoda emerges into sight. This remarkable building showcases intricate carvings of zodiac creatures and Buddhist narratives.

The precincts of Gotokuji Temple deserve to be explored at leisure; there is much more to discover and enjoy at this tranquil, nature-rich temple in Tokyo.

All photos by PIXTA

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旅行が趣味の22歳です。日本の魅力をお届けします。

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