December 15, 2016

Cats that bring good luck


“Come, Come!” the “Maneki-Neko” cat ornaments seem to gesture with their front paws poised upright. They are ornaments of good luck in Japan.* There are many theories as to the roots of these “Maneki-Neko” cats, and one of them starts at Kosetsu-Gotoku-ji temple, located in the residential area of Setagaya-ward, Tokyo. At this temple you will see a startling view you wont find anywhere else —

Luck was brought upon this temple by a cat

The reason why the Gotoku-ji temple is said to be the origin of the “Maneki-Neko” is derived from a story about a feudal lord of the early Edo period named Ii Naotaka. On the way back from hawking, Naotaka and his vassals saw a cat at the gates of this temple, at when the cat raised its front arm and clawed in mid-air seeming to invite them in. At the sight of this, the group decided to take a break. As soon as they entered the temple, the sky suddenly turned dark and rain started pouring heavily. Having being invited in by this cat and the teachings of the Buddhist priest, Naotaka felt it was destiny to make a generous donation to the temple. Thanks to the cat that invited good luck to the temple, the “Shofuku-Den” shrine was built to worship cat-dolls named “Maneki-Neko”. Since then Gotoku-ji became the ‘Bodhi temple’ that takes care of the Ii family’s grave, and to this day houses the ancestors of the Ii family including the ‘great elder’ Ii Naosuke of the late Edo period.



Charmed by countless cats

So, the must-see points of Gotoku-ji are the Shofuku-den and the tomb of the Ii family. Furthermore, the ‘dedication altar’ of the Maneki-Neko located next to Shofuku-den reveals a sight that screams “The temple of the origin of Maneki-Neko. Rows and rows of Hundreds – maybe thousands; anyways too many to count – of the charming cat ornaments lined up. Most of them are ones for sale at the reception of Gotokuji. Worshipers seeking for good luck charm purchase these ornaments, and when their wishes come true they come back to dedicate the ornaments back to the temple.
If you decide to come to Gotoku-ji temple, you must get a Maneki-Neko for yourself. You can buy them in 7 sizes, from cute miniature ones that are the size of your fingernails, to large voluminous ones up to 30 centimeters tall. Some people buy the small ones first, and come back to buy a size larger when their wishes come true!


ということで、豪徳寺の必見ポイントは、招福殿と井伊家の墓。特に招福殿横に設けられた招き猫の奉納所には、「これぞ招き猫ルーツの寺」という光景が待っている。数百?いやもしかして数千? 気軽に数えることはできないほどの招き猫がズラーー! 感心するほどびっしりと並べられ、手招きしている。その多くは、豪徳寺の受付で売られているもの。招福祈願にここで招き猫を買った参拝客が、願いが叶うとこちらに再び訪れて奉納するのだという。

Hidden Maneki-Neko hunts

There is also a dedication area for “Ema” at the Shofuku-den as well. “Ema” are wood planks with pictures drawn on them, on which you write your wishes on and pray. Gotoku-ji offers two types of Ema – one with the current year’s “Eto” zodiac animal, and another with the “Maneki-Neko”. It is apparent that many worshipers come to Gotoku-ji from all around the world, by observing the number of dedicated Ema’s with wishes written in various languages.
Finally, there is one more thing that you must try at Gotoku-ji temple: the hidden Maneki-Neko hunt. There are miniature sized cat ornaments sitting in places you would least expect, as well as decorative Maneki-Neko carvings that are engraved on buildings. Try to find the cats that are placed in other places than the dedication altar!
Not the most flashy sightseeing location, but a view unique to Gotoku-ji nonetheless. We highly recommend you to visit, and bring home your own luck-charming, Maneki-Neko cat!

* – “Maneki-Neko” cat ornaments are ornaments of good luck in Japan. “Maneki” means to invite, and the raised arm is made to look like a needy cat clawing in mid-air, for good luck to come its way.





Address: 2-24-7 Gotokuji, Setagaya-ward, Tokyo

Open Hours:8:00~17:00



Open Hours:8:00~17:00

photographer / MIREI SAKAKI

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