Gotokuji Temple – the Spiritual Home of Maneki Neko
Like cats and temples? This one's for you. Gotokuji Shrine is the spiritual home of Maneki Neko, the famous pawing cat.
Owing to the multitude of cat statuettes littered around, cries of “kawaii!” are a commonplace sound at Gotokuji Temple. Unlike most, this temple is dedicated to animals, especially cats, marking it out from the majority of other Tokyo temples. Maneki Neko (literally “beckoning cat”), the form most of the cats take, are seen as good luck charms and are treasured as such.
Gotokuji Shrine Overview
The temple consists of several buildings including a main pavilion, a pagoda, a cemetery and even a gift shop filled with, you guessed it, Maneki Neko. Overall, the complex is a welcome change of pace from lightening fast Tokyo.
Origins of Maneki-Neko
There are several versions as to how Maneki Neko came about, but what is common to them all is a benevolent cat. The most popular story stems from the early 17th century. A monk at a small, poor temple in Setagaya lived with a cat named Tama. One night, Lord Naotaka and a band of samurai, fresh from victory at the Siege of Osaka, took shelter from a storm under a tree opposite the temple. The lord noticed Tama sitting in the temple’s entranceway. With a raised paw, Tama seemed to be beckoning the lord. Obliging, the lord walked towards Tama and just as soon as he did, lightning struck the tree, turning it to ashes and killing those underneath. The lord was certain the cat had saved his life and repaid the favor with generous donations to the temple. As the story spread, Tama, complete with beckoning paw, became a much-loved figure of mercy and good luck throughout the nation.
Address: 2 Chome-24-7 Gotokuji, Setagaya, Tokyo 154-0021
Getting to Gotokuji Shrine
Twelve minutes on foot from Gotokuji Station on the Odakyu Line.
Alternatively, take the tram to Miyanosaka Station. Eight minutes on food from here.
Duration of Visit
Half a day.
Dates and Time
Open all year, 9am to 5pm.