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A must visit spot for cat lovers
I am a total cat lover and so the Gotokuji Temple (豪徳寺) was very close to the top on my must-visit-list in Japan. Said to a legend, this shrine should be one of the birth places of the famous maneki neko. The history of the temple goes back to the 17th century when the priest lived a poor life there together with his cat. He told it to bring some luck to the temple if it is grateful for getting the priest's food. One day the cat was sitting at the entrance of the temple when the lord of Hikone came buy with his samurai. Because it looked like the cat was waving to him while the cat was cleaning itself, the lord stopped by and took a rest at the temple. Shortly after this a strong rain fell down and the lord was grateful he didn't get wet. He gave presents to the temple from that time. When the cat died it got his own small shrine on the temple grounds. And this is one of the legends about the maneki neko. At the temple you find several hundred maneki neko in different sizes which you can buy at the temple office. I bought one, too, but took it home with me. You can visit the temple for free, so it is nice to take a look if you are in the area around. There is even a nice looking pagoda.
A unique temple for repeat guests
One thing we have found with return visitors is they've already visited Meiji Shrine, Sensoji, and most of the "big" Tokyo shrines and temples, so we have to go a little bit more off the beaten path when it comes to those attractions. If you've also got some repeat visitors coming to see you for the second, third, fourth (or more!) time in Japan, you need to mix things up a bit. When we had relatives in Japan recently, we checked out Gotokuji, which is said to be the place where maneki neko (or those omnipresent waving cats) originate from. It's incredible to see just how many of these maneki neko dot the grounds here...big and small, they're all over. Even the ema here are maneki neko inspired. It's not as big as some of the more well known Tokyo temples, but if you're after a little quirkiness and fun this is a good spot for it.
〒154-0021 Tokyo, Setagaya, Gotokuji, ２丁目24−7