A Temple with an Army of Cats!
Jan 14 2016
If you are thinking about checking "Setagaya Boroichi" on the 15th or the 16th after reading our article "A Rag Fair Date Back to the Warring States Period," why not going a little further on the Setagaya line to meet these lovely cats?
Gotokuji temple is situated in a quiet residential area, 5-min walk from Miyanosaka on Tokyu Setagaya line (10 minutes from Kamimachi, the nearest station to the Boroichi venue). It is said to be the birthplace of the beckoning cat or "Maneki Neko" that is believed to bring good luck.
Back in the Edo period when a feudal lord Naotaka Ii of Hikone (in Shiga prefecture) walked by the temple on his way home from falconry, he saw a temple cat was beckoning to him at the gate. As he followed the cat and stopped in the temple, suddenly a severe thunderstorm arrived. The lord, thankful of the cat's invitation, donated large funds and designated the temple as his family temple.
The cat became a Shobyo Kannon (the Goddess of Mercy) after its death, and has been enshrined in the Shobyodo (beckoning cat temple) built in the temple’s ground.
Beside the Shobyodo, you will find an army of cats left by the people whose wish had came true.
The cat dolls are available in eight sizes, from "Mame" (literally means "bean" - miniature size / 300 yen) to "Shaku" (Japanese foot - about 30cm / 5,000 yen). Find a Maneki neko-shaped display beckoning to you to locate the temple's office!
Did you notice that cats in Gotokuji do not have a piece of koban, an oval gold coin, like regular maneki neko dolls?
It is generally believed that the cat with its right paw raised brings in wealth, and it holds a koban with its left paw. However, Gotokuji being a samurai family's temple, left hands are considered unhallowed. Also in the warrior society, the idea - the beckoning cat gives you opportunities, however it is up to you whether you can make good use of them and succeed (win a koban) - is said to have been endorsed.
There are more cats on the premises like a beautiful Japanese garden: find ones on ema boards (wooden plaques to write wishes on) and look for the ones engraved on the three-story pagoda.
= Access =
5-min walk from Miyanosaka on Tokyu Setagaya line, 8-min walk from Gotokuji on Odakyu line
Address: 2-24-7, Gotokuji, Setagaya-ku