I am not sure how it took me so long to hear about this place, but having heard about it yesterday, I was there today.
An ordinary temple, you might be thinking.
Pretty, but hardly worth the hour's travel each way when there are other pretty temples nearer central Tokyo.
Well, meow to you with nobs on. You round a corner and....
Yeah, that's roughly two kabillion "maneki neko" figures.
I love how in that last one there is just the one looking the wrong way. The wooden prayer cards (I know there is a proper name for these but it escapes me) are also themed.
You find boards like these at all temples. You write your prayer on the back and then hang it up.
Of course you can buy your boards and cats there. The shop is suitably marked with this sign.
Legend holds that the maneki neko originated back in Edo period. The temple keeper was very poor and had trouble keeping up the temple, but when he found a stray cat he decided to take it home and look after it. A feudal lord from Hikone was travcelling nearby and was sheltering from a storm under a tree when he saw this cat beckoning him to come into the temple. The lord followed the cat and as soon as he had moved the tree was struck by lightning. The lord wanted to thank the cat for saving him and collected enough funds to rebuild and claim the temple as his family temple, which eventually became Gotoku-ji. As time went on, people began to offer maneki neko figurines to the temple as a sign of gratitude when their wishes came true. Now those of us who know cats...
...know they are not generally given to altruism, but maybe this was a special one and this did happen. In any case, it was beautiful to walk around. The whole trip was possibly made worthwhile just by spotting the feet of this incense burner.
The sculptor definitely caught that expression perfectly!