Nestled in the middle of Setagaya, Gotokuji-temple was high on my list of temples to visit this year in Tokyo. Completely different to any other temple I’d visited in Japan, Gotokuji is dedicated to the maneki-neko and is definitely worth the visit if (like me), you’re also a bit of a crazy cat lady!
Usually displayed with it’s right paw raised, maneki-neko (or beckoning cat) is a popular Japanese symbol believed to bring good luck to its owner and can usually be found displayed in the entrances to shops and restaurants.
Legend has it that sometime during the 17th century, Li Naotaka (a Japanese daimyō of the early Edo period) was beckoned inside the temple by a cat who found him trying to shelter from a storm.
To show his gratitude to the cat that saved him, Naotaka decided to dedicate the temple to the Ii clan. After he passed away, the temple was renamed to Gotokuji, from his posthumous Buddhist name “Kyushoin-den Gotokuten ei-daikoji.”
The cat was later said to have brought good fortune and ever since, Gotokuji-temple has been filled with donated maneki-neko figurines, left by worshippers wishing for luck and prosperity.
Most people buy a maneki-neko at the temple, make a wish and then return with it once their wish has come true. I unfortunately wasn’t going to be returning so had to make my wish and leave it there in the day, hoping it’d still come true! (I hope it does)
As well as it being a really interesting (and very cute) temple to visit, it also makes the perfect afternoon away from the busyness of central Tokyo.
How to get there:
From Shinjuku station, take the Odakyu train line to Gotokuji station. The temple is a 10 minute walk from the station
Opening hours: 08:00 – 16:30 / No closing days