Located in the Setagaya district, Tokyo’s Gotokuji Temple honors “maneki-neko”—a feline figurine that symbolizes good fortune, according to Japanese legend.
Traditional Japanese lore states that during the 17th-century Edo period, a cat rescued a feudal lord from a dangerous thunderstorm by inviting him inside Tokyo’s Gotokuji Temple with a waving gesture. To show this thoughtful feline his gratitude, the tale continues, the lord, who belonged to Japan’s powerful Ii clan, became a benefactor of the Buddhist temple and vowed to maintain its prosperity.
Today, the Gotokuji Temple is cited as the birthplace of maneki-neko, or “beckoning cat.” The charming figurine has become a symbol of good luck throughout Japan. Its popularity later extended to China too, which is why it’s not uncommon to find maneki-neko displays in Japanese and Chinese establishments in Asia and around the world. However, at the ancient Gotokuji Temple in Tokyo, the sacred grounds act as a shrine to this legendary feline.
How to get there: Gotokuji is easily accessible from central Tokyo via the Tokyu Setagaya Line. Once you’ve arrived to Miyanosaka Station, it’s about a five-minute walk through Setagaya to the Gotokuji Temple. The site is open every day from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., and entrance is free.
The Associated Press contributed images for this story.