World travelers Jürgen and Mike of For 91 Days recently visited an amazing temple in Setagaya, Tokyo. The Gōtoku-ji temple contains an awesome shrine dedicated to the Maneki-neko, or “Beckoning Cat”, a symbol of good luck and one of Japan’s most iconic images.
Setagaya is the setting of one of the Maneki-neko’s origin stories: It was there long ago that a wealthy feudal lord took shelter during a storm under a tree near Gōtoku-ji temple. “The lord saw the temple priest’s cat beckoning to him and followed; a moment later the tree was struck by lightning. The wealthy man became friends with the poor priest and the temple became prosperous. When the cat died, supposedly the first maneki-neko was made in his honor.”
"Worshipers at the Gotoku-ji often bring a Maneki Neko statue to leave for good luck. The result is a little surreal, with hundreds of cats sitting along a set of shelves outside a shrine. Except in size, they’re are all identical, exactly the same model with the same paw raised and the same beatific expression on their face.
The cat shrine is just one tiny section of the expansive Gotoku-ji temple, which, thanks to its location on the outskirts of the city, is usually very quiet.”
As you can see from these photos, there really are countless ceramic Maneki-neko figurines all over the place. To get an even better sense of just how densely populate the shrine is, check out Jürgen and Mike’s brief video panning across the grounds. There are also many more photos to be seen over at Tokyo For 91 Days.