20 April 2023
Gotokuji: Tokyo's Famous Lucky Cat Temple
In Japanese temples and shrines, various statues and objects of worship are placed in addition to the enshrined deities, and among them, there are unique and peculiar ones that cannot be found elsewhere. As an example, there is Gotokuji Temple, known as the temple of the lucky cat. It is a popular tourist spot in Tokyo, and many foreign tourists visit there. I saw many wonderful photos on Instagram, so I decided to visit Gotokuji Temple to explore how the lucky cat is placed and loved and to discover their secrets.
Umehara-san and Yukawa-san accompanied me for this tour!
Gotokuji is located about a five-minute walk from Miyanosaka Station on the Tokyu Setagaya Line in Tokyo.
The reason why Gotokuji is said to be the birthplace of the lucky cat is related to an old anecdote. It is said that a long time ago, Ii Naotaka, who was returning from a falconry, was beckoned by a white cat in front of the temple and stopped by. Suddenly, thunder began to rumble, but thanks to the white cat, Ii Naotaka was able to avoid the thunderstorm, and he was impressed by his good fortune. This was the reason why they made it the family temple for the Ii family.
The Setagaya Line is currently running the Lucky Cat Train as one of its 50th anniversary projects. It is a very cute design, and if you are lucky enough to ride it, it will surely be a good memory of your trip.
- At the Reception Desk
- The Shofuku-den Hall
- "Manegi-Neko" (Lucky Cat) Statue
- The Three-Storied Pagoda
- "Kokaku" Incense Burners
- Mahorodo Sogetsu
At the Reception Desk
We first passed through the main gate and headed towards the reception desk. Here, we received the "Ema" and "lucky cat figurine" by paying for them. There is a purchase limit of one figurine per person.
Ema is a small wooden plaque in traditional Japanese culture, which is dedicated at Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples. It usually consists of a rectangular wooden board on which people write their wishes or prayers, or draw pictures.
Umehara-san and Yukawa-san each purchased an Ema and a lucky cat figurine. If you want to write something on the Ema, you won't be able to borrow a pen here, so it's better to bring your own. In addition, we also purchased incense here.
The Shofuku-den Hall
Once you have finished writing your wish on the Ema, head to the Shofuku-den Hall.
There are many Emas hanging there. Yukawa-san wrote, "wish you all happiness and health," and Umehara-san wrote, "be healthy and safe."
When I saw Emas with wishes of various people filled with hope, I felt like I am also encouraged.
Next, we went to the back of the hall, where many lucky cat figurines are placed. I was surprised by their number. While it was cute with only one figurine, seeing them gathered together and their big eyes seemingly looking at me gave me a moderate sense of tension!
Since there were so many figurines, it was difficult to find space to put them. We thought it would be best near the Bodhisattva statue, but there was no place to put them.
Some people leave their lucky cat figurines at the Gotokuji temple, while others take them home as talismans. There are also those who take them home and then place them at the temple once their wishes have been granted.
Afterwards, we walked around the Shofuku-den Hall and prayed in front of the offertory box.
"Manegi-Neko" (Lucky Cat) Statue
The lucky cat statue near the Shofuku-den hall was called "Manegi-Neko," and it had no koban (oval gold coin) but raised its right hand. Manegi-Neko brings "en" (meaning fate or karma) and invites people, but it does not necessarily give happiness or fortune itself.
I thought that the idea expressed by the statue was to always be grateful for what we have and to never forget that gratitude.
The Three-Storied Pagoda
I heard that there was a cat in the three-storied pagoda, so I decided to look for it. Among the various zodiac signs in the wooden tower, I found a white cat in the center! Originally, cats were not included in the twelve signs of the Chinese zodiac, so we feel a strong connection and love for the cats at this temple.To Read About The Zodiac Signs
"Kokaku" Incense Burners
Finally, we offered incense at the large "Kokaku" incense burners, located near the gate. The Gotokuji temple's Kokaku has a symbolic presence. There are various theories as to why incense should be offered, but it is said that it is good to apply the smoke rising from the incense burner to painful or bad parts of the body. It is also said that people bathe in the smoke for the purpose of purifying the body by dispelling demons with the smoke.
After the walk, we went to a Japanese sweets shop called "Mahorodo Sogetsu" to take a break. The "Dorayaki" (sweet red-bean pancake) had a stamp of lucky cats on them, and it made me hesitate to eat them because they were too cute. The taste was both sweet and refreshing. There was a space to eat inside of the shop, but since the weather was nice, we ate outside. Since the train tracks were right in front of us, we were able to enjoy watching the cute lucky cat trains running and felt very soothed.
Visiting this place left me with a much-needed reminder: forming meaningful bonds with people leads to greater joy and fulfillment in life. This insight has given me the drive to make each day count, rather than leaving it all up to fate.
Whenever I cast an eye over the lucky cat figurines at home, it feels like they are guarding over me.