December 15, 2016
EXPERIENCE

Cats that bring good luck

猫に招かれ招福祈願

“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 —
「おいでおいで」と手招きをするように前足を上げた猫の置き物「招き猫」。人や福を引き寄せると言われる、日本ではおなじみの縁起物だ。招き猫のルーツは諸説あるが、その一つが東京都世田谷区の住宅街にある古刹・豪徳寺。そこには、ここでしか見られないオドロキの光景が…。

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.

猫のおかげで福が訪れた寺

豪徳寺が招き猫発祥の寺と言われる所以は、江戸時代初期の大名・井伊直孝のあるエピソードから。鷹狩りの帰り道、家臣を従えた直孝が寺の前を通りかかった際、門前にいた一匹の猫が直孝を見上げ、前足を上げて寺に手招きしたという。そこで一行はここで休憩しようと寺に入ったところ、急に空模様が変わり豪雨が降り始めた。猫に招かれたことで雨に濡れずに済み、そこで和尚の説法を聞いた直孝は、この寺に縁を感じて多くの寄付をした。猫のおかげで寺に福が訪れたことから、招福殿を建て、猫の姿を模った人形を作り「招福猫児(まねきねこ)」と呼んで崇めるようになったと言われている。豪徳寺はその後、井伊家の菩提寺となり、現在も、井伊直孝と、その子孫で江戸時代末期の大老・井伊直弼ほか井伊家の墓がある。

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!

数えきれない猫が招く

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。
せっかく豪徳寺を訪れるのならば、やっぱり招き猫を手に入れるべき。販売しているのは、指先ほどのかわいらしいものから高さ約30cmのどっしりと存在感のあるものまで全7サイズ。最初は小さい招き猫を買い、願いが叶ったら次は一つ大きなサイズを買う、というように、徐々に大きいものに変えていく人もいるそうだ。

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.

隠れ招き猫探しも

また、招福殿には「絵馬」の奉納所もある。絵馬とは絵が描かれた木の板で、ここに願い事を書いて祈願するもの。豪徳寺では2種類の絵馬を用意していて、一つはその年の干支が、もう一つは招き猫が描かれている。奉納された絵馬を見ると、日本語以外の言語で書かれたものも多く、豪徳寺が海外からの参拝客が多いことがわかる。
最後に。豪徳寺探訪で、ぜひトライしてほしいことがある。それは、隠れ招き猫探し。見過ごしてしまうような意外なところにミニサイズの招き猫が鎮座していたり、ある建物の一部に招き猫の彫刻が施されていたり。招き猫奉納所ではないところにいる招き猫も、ぜひ探してみてほしい。
派手な観光名所ではないけれど、ここでしか見られない光景に出会える豪徳寺。ぜひ足を運んで、福を呼ぶ招き猫を連れて帰りませんか?

SHOP INFO

Gotoku-ji

Address: 2-24-7 Gotokuji, Setagaya-ward, Tokyo
TEL:03-3426-1437

Open Hours:8:00~17:00

豪徳寺

住所:東京都世田谷区豪徳寺2-24-7
TEL:03-3426-1437

Open Hours:8:00~17:00

writer / YOSHIKO OSHIMA
photographer / MIREI SAKAKI

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