Less than 10 stops away from Shinjuku Station on the Odakyu Line in Tokyo lies a station called Gotokuji. This quiet area in Setagaya Ward is the birthplace of the world famous maneki neko, which translates to “beckoning cat.”
The legend of the maneki neko involves a feudal lord from the Edo period making his way through town when he came across a cat beckoning him under the shelter of Gotokuji Temple. The lord obliged and rested. A thunderstorm suddenly started, and thanks to the cat’s invitation, the lord stayed dry. Grateful for this deed, he donated enough money to help rebuild the temple and make it his family temple. Since that time, it is believed that the cat brings good fortune.
After a 10-15 minute walk from Gotokuji station, you will arrive at the temple. Located in a corner of the temple is a space dedicated to the figurines. You will find rows and rows filled with cats of all sizes.
Besides the main attraction of the maneki neko, the temple is the burial grounds of Ii Naosuke, a feudal lord most famous for signing the Harris Treaty with the United States in 1858, an agreement that opened Japan’s ports for trade with the West. Other points of interest at the temple include a three-story pagoda, which is decorated with a maneki neko figurine on the first level, and depending on the season, beautiful foliage can also be enjoyed.