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Gotokuji - home of the Maneki Neko

Gotokuji is the home of Japan's maneki neko (or beckoning cats).  The cats occupy a very small area of the temple, but there are a lot of them there - over 1000!!  See a few pictures of them here.

Whenever I'm asked about what images I associate with Japan, one of the things that comes quickly to mind are the beckoning cats.  You see them everywhere.  They'll be at restaurants and shops with one or, in some cases, both paws raised.  In Japanese they are called, "招き猫", (maneki neko) which  literally means, “beckoning cat”.  They are, usually, small figurines that bring luck, customers and money.  Their home is Gotokuji, which is a temple in Tokyo's Setagaya ward.

Gotokuji is a lovely little place with few visitors, very different to the larger temples and shrines like Sensoji or Meiji Jingu that attract huge numbers of tourist.  As Gotokuji is out in Tokyo's suburbs, it takes a little effort to get to.  However, it is all worthwhile once you get there as it has the cats, a pagoda and lots of trees.  It is a lovely place.  And as the temple has a large cemetery, you'll also find most Japanese go there to attend their family graves, so noise is very minimal - great for the cats, nice and quiet.  It really is suburban Tokyo.

The entrance to Gotokuji

I think most people would be quite surprised on their first visit.  The area where the cats are located is quite small, probably five meters in length and maybe one meter wide.  However in that small area are a lot of Maneki Neko, over 1000!  The cats are of all different sizes too.  Some are quite large but many of them are very small.  They all have one thing in common though - they are very cute!  With that upraised beckoning paw don't be surprised if you want to take one home with you. If you do want to buy one, you can spend between 300 and 5000 yen at the temple's administration building that has them on sale.  The 300 yen ones are tiny, just a couple of centimetres high while the 5000 yen ones are pretty big.

The main hall of Gotokuji

The only other thing there to see at Gotokuji is the grave of Naosuke Ii.  To be honest, it isn't much to look at, but for those with a interest in history it is something to see.  His grave lies in his family's plot which occupies one corner of Gotokuji.  Ii was the daimyo of Hikone (what is now Shiga prefecture) as well as occupying the office of Tairo (or Great Elder) of the Tokugawa government when it ruled Japan.  He was assassinated at the Imperial palace's Sakuradamon (Sakurada gate).

These beckoning cats could use a wash?

The pagoda at Gotokuji

Some of the cats aren't very good at hiding ...

One thing I love about temples is the woodwork - it is amazing in my opinion

The main gate to Gotokuji

In this small courtyard at Gotokuji you'll find more than 1000 of the beckoning cats

Jizo statues just outside the Ii family cemetery at Gotokuji

Even the ema have a cat theme at Gotokuji

Some of the cats are probably around two centimeters tall?

Metalwork and woodwork of the temple

Behind the cats you can see the headstones in the cemetery which is literally right behind them

The grave of Ii Naosuke

Unfortunately, Gotokuji doesn't seem to have a website, but if you want to learn more about the maneki neko, you can read this article about them on wikipedia here.

How to get to Gotokuji

There are two ways to get to Gotokuji.  One is via the Odakyu line.  Get off at Gotokuji and walk about 15 minutes to the temple.  I don't really recommend this way unless you have a smart phone with a map application on it, as the road there isn't a straight one.

The best way I think is to use the Keio line and get off at Shimo-Takaido station and change to the Tokyu Setagaya (tram) line to get to Miyanosaka station.  From Miyanosaka station it is just a few minute's walk up to the temple.  Here is a Google map to give you an idea:

Opening hours

The administration building is open from 8:30am until about 5pm.  The gate to thetemple grounds is open from 6am to 6pm.

If you enjoyed this article you might also enjoy:

Aoyama cemetery - a great place for photographers and history buffs

Edo-Tokyo Museum - a huge place where you can found out more of this city's amazing history

Japan Open-Air Folk House Museum - learn about Japan's old houses

Kyu-Shiba-rikyu Gardens - one of Tokyo's smallest but most beautiful parks

Omiya Hachiman - one of Tokyo's more local shrines

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