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 its owner, 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 appeared to beckon him inside. Just after he followed the cat into the temple, a thunderstorm broke out and lightning struck the ground where he had been standing. He was so happy with his good luck, that he donated a ton of money to the Gotoku-ji and made it his family temple.
Worshipers at the Gotoku-ji often bring a Maneki Neko statue to leave for good luck. The result is a little surreal, with hundreds of cats sitting along a set of shelves outside a shrine. Except in size, they’re are all identical, exactly the same model with the same paw raised and the same beatific expression on their face.
The cat shrine is just one tiny section of the expansive Gotoku-ji temple, which, thanks to its location on the outskirts of the city, is usually very quiet.
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July 7, 2014 at 4:33 pm