Looking for something fun to do in the afternoon, we decided to head to the Gotokuji Shrine to see all the cats. The Japanese love cats. Not only do you see a fair amount of real cats around the neighborhoods and lurking in the lush parks and cemeteries, but they are also featured as statues of good luck. I am more of a dog person myself, but I do love the good luck cats.
Everyone has seen the good luck cat dolls. They sit with either a right or a left paw raised.
According to the Japan Monthly Web Magazine provided by the Japan National Tourism Organization, “In Japan they are called Maneki Neko (beckoning or welcoming cat) and it is popular in Japan as a lucky charm that invites happiness. It is said that the one with its right paw raised invites money and the one with its left paw raised invites people.”
We took the train to Gotokuji station, and then proceeded to get very lost in the little neighborhood with wandering streets. Finally, Google Maps kicked in and realized we didn’t just want to walk around Gotokuji proper, we might actually want to see the shrine. Once Google Maps figured it out and showed us the way, it was a 15-minute walk to the shrine grounds.
To get into the shrine area, we had to follow along the fenced-in area until we finally found a side gate. By the time we arrived, it was after 5pm and I was sure the shrine would be closed—but it wasn’t and we walked in to the very large park-like setting.
There were quite a few structures—shrines, and pagodas, and what looked like a gift shop which was closed.
At first, all I saw was a wooden cut-out of a Good Luck cat in front of the closed gift shop, and I was sad because I thought maybe the cats were located in one of the closed buildings.
But they were not! We eventually found them after wandering around the grounds. They are located opposite the big wooden cat and around the side of one of the big buildings.
There are more cats here than at a Cat Woman’s Jamboree (if there was such a thing). Local business owners hoping to improve their business drop off these cats. If it works, there must be a lot of successful business owners.
And all these cats—even for this dog person—made me smile.