The Beckoning Cats of Gotoku-ji Temple
The Maneki Neko, or “Beckoning Cat,” is one of Japan’s most iconic images. Thought to bring luck and prosperity to their owners, these cats are frequently found outside businesses and within homes. And in the neighborhood of Setagaya, we found the Gotoku-ji temple, where the Maneki Neko plays a starring role.
Japan’s most famous cat has a few origin stories, one of which is set in Setagaya. Long ago, a lord who had been travelling to Edo was starting to feel weary. As he passed the Gotoku-ji temple, a cat caught his attention and seemed to beckon him inside. As soon as he followed the cat into the temple, a thunderstorm broke out and lightning struck the ground, exactly in the spot where he had been standing. He was so happy with his good luck, that he donated a small fortune to the Gotoku-ji and had it made into his family temple.
Worshipers at the Gotoku-ji often bring a Maneki Neko statue to leave for good luck at one of the shrines. The result is surreal, with hundreds of cats sitting atop a set of shelves. Except in size, they’re are all identical, exactly the same model with the same paw raised and the same beatific expression on their faces. Cats which don’t fit the strict criteria are removed by the temple’s staff.