Tokyo has a lot of famous temples and shrines. Sensoji in Asakusa, with it’s lively shopping street, or Meiji Jingu, neighboring lively Harajuku. These are all great places to visit but personally, especially after living here for a while, I like to visit smaller places with unique characteristics. Gotokuji Temple, also known as the lucky cat temple, has been gradually gaining in popularity throughout the years but remains relatively unknown – especially compared to Tokyo’s more famous sights. So it’s the perfect place to enjoy a beautiful Japanese atmosphere without the crowds, right in central Tokyo.
How to Get to Tokyo’s Gotokuji Temple
The best way is to take the Odakyu line bound for Hon-Atsugi from Shinjuku station to Gotokuji station. It’s nine stops and will take you about 15 minutes. The temple itself is a bit of a walk from the station but there will be signs on the street when you make your exit. I get lost wherever I go but I was able to manage with just following the road up and didn’t even have to check my phone. It should be just about 10 minutes, and if you feel like you may have gotten lost feel free to ask the friendly locals. You can ask for Gotokuji or maneki neko, that’s Japanese for lucky cat!
The Secret Legend of the Lucky Cat Temple
The origin of the lucky cat is definitely disputed and this Temple claims one of the most popular origin stories. It’s said that a local lord was taking shelter under a tree during a lightning storm when he saw a cat beckoning him to the temple grounds. He followed the cat and a bolt of lightning destroyed the tree a moment after. Thus, the beckoning cat became a symbol of good luck and the figurines were to honor his spirit and to bestow good luck on those who hold them.
It’s also said that the space where the cat is buried is where you can find all these little maneki neko, with the original neko watching over as a benevolent deity. You can also purchase them in the temple shop.
So the next time you find yourself in Tokyo, I hope you can check out this cute little temple!