In Setagaya, many people flock to Gotokuji Temple which many people call the “cat temple”.
Featuring a plethora of statues feat. the lucky cat a.k.a. “maneki neko” (招き猫). The legend and also the Japan National Tourism Organization says that during the Edo Period, af eudal lord named Ii Naotaka was arriving home and saw the temple’s cat trying to get him to enter the temple (hence the cat’s paw up in maneki neko statues, in Japanese the hand up is a beckoning sign similar to “come here”, opposite or upside down version of what we use in America).
So, the feudal lord went to the temple and then a thunderstorm came (not sure if lightning struck the very area he was standing – although that would be an interesting) but the feudal lord felt gracious that the cat saved his life, so he collected funds and donated it to the rebuilding of the temple which brought visitors from far away who have come to visit the temple and see the plethora of maneki neko statues with their very own eyes.
And so visitors come to Gotokuji to offer maneki statues to the temple as a gesture of gratitude after their wishes become a reality. And for foreigners, it’s a fascinating and unique temple because of the number of maneki neko statues at the location, big and tall. And right in the middle of the cats is the statue of Kannon, the goddess of mercy.
Of course, there is much more to Gotokuji Temple with a large pagoda and incense kiln in the front, a cemetery to the side and much more.
What I enjoy about Gotokuji Temple is that it’s not a tourist trap, so it’s not overly crowded. You will more than likely get great pictures at this location.
The only thing is that Google Maps will direct you to the area from the nearby station but there is a point when you get near where Google Maps tells you to go through an alley that looks like a dead end. But if you get to this part, you are not far, just keep going through the area and you will eventually reach the area.
Overall, I absolutely enjoyed my visit to Gotokuji Temple in Setagaya. Lush, serene and not so crowded! And where else will you find this many maneki neko statues at a temple? Check it out!