Why is it “covered in cats”…along with other famous tourist attractions?” I visited Gotokuji in Setagaya, the 7th most popular inbound destination. | FRIDAY DIGITAL

Why is it “covered in cats”…along with other famous tourist attractions?” I visited Gotokuji in Setagaya, the 7th most popular inbound destination.

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80%” of worshippers are tourists from overseas

According to the “Inbound Tourist Attraction Ranking” released by mov, Inc., which operates one of Japan’s largest inbound comprehensive media “Visit Japan Lab,” Sensoji Temple, Kinkakuji Temple, Kiyomizu Temple… were ranked in the top 10 inbound popular tourist attractions along with other famous tourist attractions. Gotokuji Temple in Setagaya.

Tourists from overseas look with interest at the “beckoning cats” lined up on the votive shelves (PHOTO: Ayumi Kagami).

When I visited Gotokuji before 10:00 a.m. on a weekday, tourists from overseas were already in the temple. Some of the groups were on tours. There was also a small line at the temple office. When I asked the temple staff, they replied, “It’s still early in the morning, so it’s not so bad,

The temple staff told us, “It’s still early in the morning, so it’s not so big, but in the afternoon, the line can be long.

The temple is visited by 1,000 worshippers on weekdays and 2,000 on weekends, 80% of whom are tourists from overseas. Some visitors come by sightseeing bus, and at times the three parking lots set aside for sightseeing buses are filled to capacity. It is true that even now, most of the visitors to the shrine are foreigners.

The number of visitors from overseas has been increasing over the past 10 years, as the temple was covered by the BBC and other foreign media as the “birthplace of beckoning cats,” and the number of visitors gradually increased as word spread through social networking services.

It is before 10:00 on a weekday, but there are tourists from overseas in front of the temple office. In the afternoon, there is a long line of people waiting to get beckoning cats and money.

The birthplace of “Manekineko” (beckoning cat) The birthplace of beckoning cats

Gotokuji Temple was founded in 1480 by Masatada Kira and later became a family temple of the Iyi family.

One day, Ii Naotaka, a lord of the Hikone domain, stopped by the temple on a falconry trip. A cat beckoned him to enter the temple, and a thunderstorm suddenly began to fall. Ii Naotaka was so moved by his good fortune that he was able to avoid the thunderstorm and enjoy talking with the monk.

In a corner of the spacious temple grounds, there is a votive shelf filled with beckoning cats of all sizes. The dedication shelf is filled with beckoning cats of all sizes. When the shelves are full, the cats are burnt, but this cannot be done once a year, so they are burnt several times a year.

A statue of the beckoning cat is placed in front of the hall, and inside the hall, the beckoning cats that have been dedicated are lined up in a row without any space between them, just like the shelves of votive offerings.

The 22.5-meter-high three-story pagoda is decorated with the twelve signs of the Chinese zodiac, and a beckoning cat is at the “child (ne)” spot. The cat’s picture is also painted on the side of a vending machine, and you will encounter beckoning cats in many other places.

The beckoning cats are lined up in rows on the dedication shelf. The temple recommends that visitors take them home and dedicate them when their wishes come true, but many people do so without taking them home.
A statue of a beckoning cat in front of the hall of blessings. The beckoning cat at Gotokuji Temple does not carry a koban, as the temple teaches that if you are grateful for your blessings, you will naturally be blessed.
The 22.5-meter-high three-story pagoda was completed in 2006. Inside the tower are statues of Shakyamuni Buddha, Shakyamuni Buddha, and Ananda, as well as a statue of the beckoning cat, Nekko-ji Kannon.
The three-story pagoda is decorated with the twelve signs of the Chinese zodiac, but the year of the child is marked by a beckoning cat. Even though it is said that rats and cats do not get along well with each other, they get along well with each other here.

Some people say they stop by every time they come to Japan…

I wondered if visitors from overseas also came to see these cats. When we asked what countries they came from, they were from the U.S., the U.K., Italy, Poland, Taiwan, China, and many others. Looking at the ema (votive picture tablet), there was almost no Japanese.

It seems that visitors come from all over the world. When asked why they came to Gotokuji Temple, most of them answered “because I like cats,” but some said they were interested in traditional Japanese things. At the same time, many also answered, “I like this temple.

It’s quiet and relaxing. Peaceful.” Many said, “It’s peaceful. Some of them like the temple so much that they drop by every time they visit Japan.

It is a five-minute walk from Miyanosaka Station on the Setagaya Line. As you walk in, you will see dense trees surrounded by a wall. The temple grounds are lined with plum and cherry trees, creating a world apart from the hustle and bustle of the city center.

The sense of “Japan” may be one of the reasons for Gotokuji’s popularity.

Ema (votive tablet) with wishes written in various languages including English, French, and Chinese.
An Italian couple who visited Gotokuji Temple when they came to Japan in 2010 and visited again. I like the quiet and calm atmosphere of the temple. The beckoning cat I bought on my last visit is now on display in my kitchen.
A couple from the United States. The woman wears a pair of beckoning cat earrings she bought in New York. Manekineko cats are popular in New York, too.
A family from the U.S. enjoying skiing in Niseko. They came to this temple because they like Japanese culture. We also bought a beckoning cat.
A couple from Taiwan came to Gotokuji after learning about it on Instagram. We love cats,” said a couple from Taiwan who came to Gotokuji after learning about the temple through Instagram. I have two cats at home.
Gotokuji Temple was founded in 1480. The approach to the temple is lined with giant pine trees that look like a tunnel. Many tourists from overseas are attracted by the tranquility of the temple.
  • Interview and writing Izumi Nakagawa PHOTO Ayumi Kagami

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