What to know about the ‘Waving Cat’ visit to Japan

As the subject of a well-known legend, Gotokuji Temple’s “beckoning cat” has significance beyond its aesthetic appeal.

Waving cats statue inside Gotokuji temple in Tokyo, Japan

Gotokuji, a Buddhist temple in the Setagaya district of Tokyo, is reputed to be the origin of Maneki Neko. Having this “beckoning cat” figurine on display in a bedroom or office would bring prosperity and success to its owner. Due to its high popularity in Chinese and Vietnamese communities, many people mistakenly attribute its invention to China.

But it’s possible to trace the origins of the Maneki Neko to Japan, and one of the best-known myths about the cat’s history dates back to Gotojuki. As a result, large and small cats attract visitors to Gotojuki more than to any other Japanese temple. Wood, stone, metal and porcelain are just some of the materials used to create these lovely figurines, which also come in a rainbow of colors, although the classic white color continues to reign supreme. master.


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The Story of Gotokuji’s Waving Cat

During the final years of traditional Japanese rule, known as the Edo period, a priest’s cat at Gotokuji Temple is said to have guided a medieval lord to safety from a storm. Maneki Neko statues have one paw raised because the cat inside beckoned the lord and his servants. While the storm raged outside, the lord and the priest were having tea.

After that, he showed his gratitude by making Gotokuji Temple the final resting place of his noble family and donating rice and land. Hundreds of lucky cat statues are on display today near a statue of Kannon, the goddess of compassion. There are cats all over the main building and grounds, and cat-themed artwork decorates the streets outside the temple.

Today’s temple-goers often leave behind a Maneki Neko figurine as an offering in hopes that the god or Buddha will grant their wishes and grant them prosperity.

Where to find Gotokuji Temple and what to do there

Gotokuji is a tranquil temple located on the outskirts of Tokyo, perfect for cat lovers interested in Japanese culture and history. It is a 20-minute drive from the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Equestrian Venue and can be reached on foot from the Olympic Stadium. The staff at Gotokuji Temple are also warm and welcoming. Even though there is a language barrier, English speakers can learn the story of Fortune-Inviting Kannon and enjoy their visit to this beautiful temple.

Inside the temple are on sale omikuji (Japanese fortunes) and cat figurines of various sizes. The staff can help those who cannot read Japanese by revealing whether they have been blessed or cursed. If it’s worth it, they can keep it. Otherwise, they can leave the bad luck related to the tree branch outside the hall. Typical souvenirs for tourists in Gotokuji, cat figurines are left at the temple after their owners have made a wish or prayed for good fortune. An alternative is to take the cat figurine home and keep it until the wish or prayer comes true. Then, return to Gotokuji and leave the cat statue as an offering.

Most miniature cat figurines in the store cost around 300 yen, while the largest, a life-size statue, costs around 5,000 yen. However, spending a large amount of money on a Maneki Neko is optional, as the size of the figure has no bearing on the amount of good fortune it brings. Tourists can also get an ema wooden plaque from the same store as the cat figurines and omikuji to record their best wishes and prayers. Visitors hang these ema signs on the wall, hoping their wishes will come true.

There is a small cemetery at the back of the temple where you can find some history. Cemeteries in Japan are a fascinating but little-known aspect of the country’s culture, and visiting one can be a challenge for foreign visitors due to the prevalence of locks. However, Clan Ii, the family that gave their fortune to the temple, is said to rest in the cemetery of Gotokuji Temple. It’s still a nice place to visit, even if you can’t read the tombstones.

Additionally, Gotokuji Temple has beautiful gardens with serene gardens and stunning illustrations of traditional Japanese architecture.

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Opening hours and admission fees

Gotokuji Temple’s opening hours are from late March to mid-September, 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., and from late September to mid-March, 6 a.m. to 5 p.m. From 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., visitors can meet the staff at the Temple (closed at 5 p.m. in summer.)

Visits to Gotokuji cost nothing. The best time to visit the temple to see the most Maneki Neko is in January or February, when most offerings are made to celebrate the Japanese New Year.

  • Nearest station: Miyanosaka Station on the Tokyo Metro Setagaya Line is a 5-minute walk away. Visitors can also reach this place by a 15-minute walk from Gotokuji Station of the Odakyu Line.
  • Address: Gotokuji 2-24-7, Setagaya-ku, Tokyo, 154-0021.
  • Contact: +81-3-3426-1437