Gotokuji (豪徳寺, Gōtokuji) is a Buddhist temple in Setagaya Ward known primarily because of the hundreds of maneki-neko (“beckoning cat”) figures laid out in one area of the temple’s grounds. One legend has it that the now ubiquitous kitsch charm originated from the temple. The story goes that one day during the early years of the Edo period, the feudal lord Naotaka Li was passing the temple when the priest’s cat appeared to beckon him in from the front gate. Curious, Naotaka followed the cat into the temple and decided to rest. As he sat down, the clouds turned color and a thunderstorm rolled over the area. Grateful to the temple for providing shelter, he made a large donation to have the then-dilapidated structure repaired. In later years a separate building was constructed the maneki-neko figures with the classic right-hand beckoning pose were placed nearby—and Gotokuji’s place on the temple map of Tokyo was secured.

The small structure near the pagoda is home to the maneki-neko
Hundreds of ’em…

Today, shops around the temple sell maneki-neko statues and you can buy small souvenirs in the grounds. On some days, helpers even hold workshops to show you how to draw and paint the perfect maneki-neko. But while the little white cats give the temple a novelty boost, the grounds themselves are spacious and especially beautiful in autumn. The three-storied pagoda facing you when you enter the temple is particularly impressive.

The main grounds of the temple
The three-storied pagoda
You May Also Like

Kaminarimon

Kaminarimon (“Thunder Gate”) is the protector of Sensoji Temple. Fujin, the god of wind, and Raijin, the god of thunder, are enshrined on the east and west side of the gate, respectively. Pass under the gate and make your way up Nakamise. As you do, be sure to look up to see the wooden carving under the large red lantern.

Kitain Temple

Temple rebuilt from the only surviving remains of Edo Castle famous also for its 538 statues of the Rakan, disciples of the Buddha.

Nikko Toshogu Shrine

Toshogu Shrine (東照宮, Tōshōgū) is Nikko’s most visited attraction. It is the resting place of Tokugawa Ieyasu, under…

Taishakuten Daikyoji Temple

Shibamata’s most famous temple with a small Japanese garden and wooden carvings.