Maneki Neko – Gotokuji
Gotokuji is said to be the birthplace of Maneki Neko, the beckoning cat. The Buddhist temple is located in Setagaya, Tokyo and has a beautiful display of the lucky ceramic cats.
There are many legends surrounding the origin of Maneki Neko, but the best known is that of the Temple Cat. The story starts in the 17th century at Gotokuji during a storm. A poverty stricken priest sits in despair, questioning why he’s sharing the little food he has with his cat. One night, he goes to bed with these thoughts weighing on him while the cat wanders off to the entrance of the temple and starts to wash himself. A wealthy lord is taking shelter from the rain under a tree and sees the cat, and thinks it is beckoning him. Intrigued, he walks toward the temple gates to investigate. A moment later the tree he had been under is struck by lightning. The lord is so thankful to the cat for saving his life that he showers the priest and temple with gifts. When the cat died, the Maneki Neko was supposedly made in his honour.
Most of the cats at Gotokuji are the same design as you can buy them from the temple shop. However there are usually many variations in the design of Maneki Neko statues. Colour and intricacy vary, but no matter what the cat sits with a raised paw. A raised right paw attracts money and good luck while a raised left paw attracts customers. Some cats even have battery powered paws that go up and down; these are popular in the windows of lottery booths. The cats usually have a collar, bell or a bib around their neck, and are sometimes shown holding an old and valuable coin called a koban.
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