Gotokuji, the home of Maneki Neko


Gotokuji (豪徳寺) is a Buddhist temple, located in Setagaya Ward of Tokyo. It is easily accessible by train. Gotokuji Station is only 15 minutes away from Shinjuku Station. The temple is famous for maneki neko (beckoning cat), a very popular Japanese figurine (lucky charm) which is often believed to bring good luck to the owner. It is frequently found sitting near the entrance of shops. Shop owners put it there wishing for prosperity in business. It is said that the one with its right paw raised invites money and the one with its left paw raised invites people.

The Kotokuin temple that stood on this site from 1480 was made a protector temple of Edo when Setagaya became part of the Hikone domain in 1633. The name Gotokuji, associated with the posthumous name of the daimyo Ii Naotaka, dates from 1659. Gotokuji is a temple of grand buildings, as befits the burial ground of the Ii daimyo line.

The burial ground preserves the Edo-period pattern for daimyo family tombs, and is the largest national historic site in the Edo (Tokyo) area. Gotokuji is the preeminent ancient temple in Setagaya, with a Main Hall, stone lanterns and Bell Tower dating from the 17th century. On the extensive grounds are the Lecture Hall, Patriarchs Hall, Shoin, Shofukuden, Three Storied Pagoda, Jizo Hall, Shugetsuen garden, and the li family tombs.

Legend holds that while hunting with falcons, the daimyo Ii Naotaka was saved from a lightning bolt when the chief priest’s pet cat Tama beckoned him into Gotokuji. This is the origin of the lucky beckoning cat maneki neko, which is very popular as a charm for home safety, business success, or fulfillment of prayers.

The temple grounds are quite large (about 50,000 square meters). There are numerous trees and flowering plants to be enjoyed through the seasons, including plum and cherry trees, peonies, azaleas,  hydrangea, and maples that go red in autumn. Other highlights are the path from the Sekimon Gate to the Main Gate, and the interior of the woodland where there are many birds.

Photos: Junko Nagata © Japanbyweb.com

The tomb of Ii Naosuke (1815-1860). He was daimyo of Hikone and also Tairo (大老, “great elder”, high-ranking official) of the Tokugawa shogunate. He is most famous for signing the Harris Treaty with the United States, granting access to ports for trade to American merchants and seamen and extraterritoriality to American citizens .

ACCESS

10-minute walk from Gotokuji station on the Odakyu Line. Gotokuji station is only 15 minutes away from Shinjuku station.
5-minute walk from Miyanosaka station on the Tokyu Setagaya Line.

Address: 2-24-7 Gotokuji, Setagaya-ku, Tokyo

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