This time last year I was intensively planning my trip to Japan. And I pleasantly found about the Gotokuji temple, also known as the birthplace of the maneki-neko. Gotokuji temple is a Buddhist temple in the Setagaya ward of Tokyo.
I visited it on an early rainy November day. I had a busy morning, with a Yayoi Kusama museum slot that I could not miss, so I woke up super early to get there at 09:00 am. From Asakusa, where my hotel was, to Gotokuji, it was 1.5h one way, but it was worth it, even if I spent 15-20 minutes there. I would definitely go again and spend a few good hours on the temple grounds and in the neighbourhood. It looks very quaint, and lovely. Far from the hustle and bustle of central Tokyo.
The rainy weather and the early morning time made for a perfect visit, with virtually no tourists around – except a couple who was nice enough to take a decent photo of me.
What is maneki-neko?
Maneki-neko, or the ‘luck-inviting cat figurine’ or the ‘beckoning cat’ is a Japanese figure meant to bring good luck to its owner. You can see maneki-neko figures displayed at the entrances of shops, restaurants, and other businesses. You can find them in shops or markets, made of ceramic or plastic, as statues or as battery-operated, where one of the paws is always moving up and down.
There is also meaning behind which paw is raised. If the left paw is raised, then the maneki-neko would help attract more customers (if you have a business). If the right paw is raised, then it would help attract more money (if you have it at home). And if both paws are raised, then it would help attract both money and customers.
The birthplace of the maneki-neko
This temple is said to be the birthplace of the maneki-neko, or “luck-inviting cat figurine.”. And it’s hosting hundreds of them! Legend says that in the 17th century, a cat living at the temple led a lord to safety during a thunderstorm. The cat beckoned him and his servants inside, to safety, with a waving gesture. That is why all maneki-neko statues have one paw raised.
You can find here statues of all sizes. And visitors can buy such statues from the temple and add them to the ever-growing collection. Unfortunately, when I got there, I couldn’t figure out where to buy a maneki-neko myself. But I am glad I had some time to admire the collection and the beautiful fall foliage.
How to get to the Gotokuji Temple
If you are staying in Tokyo, it’s rather easy to get to Gotokuji temple, albeit quite long if your hotel is not in Shinjuku or nearby. The important part is to get to Shinjuku Station. And from there you can take the Odakyu line to Gotokuji station.
Don’t forget that when you get to the temple, the entrance is through the South Gate. I knew that and still, the maps app led me to the North Gate, which made me go around the temple grounds. Maybe your maps app will be kinder to you 🙂
Would you visit Gotokuji temple yourself?