These cats bring fortune! More than 1,000 figures of “Beckoning cats” in Gotokuji Temple!

Msatada Kira, the owner of Setagya-jo Castle, built Gotokuji Temple in 1480. It was the family temple of the Ii family and holds the grave of Naosuke Ii. It is also known as the birthplace of manekineko (beckoning cats).


Maneki-neko, the beckoning cat.

Why is it raising its hand? The mystery of the beckoning cat.

Have you ever seen this figure of a cat in the entrance of Japanese shops? This beckoning cat is called “maneki-neko” and is believed to bring in a lot of business if you put it in the entrance of your business. The way the cat is raising its hand looks as if its calling customers. There’s a temple where you can see many of these lucky maneki-neko in Tokyo!

Gotokuji Temple

Pray to the cats when you want some luck!

You can see a myriad of maneki-neko in Gotokuji Temple! There are more than 1,000 of them, from small to large sizes that are also available for purchase. These beckoning cats are called “manegi-neko”, and are dedications to God, after your wish comes true by praying to it. Manegi-neko is a white cat, raising its right hand. Maneki-neko usually has an oval coin in its hand. Manegi-neko does not and this is because the Ii family’s discipline did not trust the idea of money.

The gate of Gotokuji Temple

The tradition at Gotokuji Temple

There are several theories on how maneki-neko had become the mascot that brings fortune, but Gotokuji’s theory is the most plausible. Once upon a time during the Edo period, around 1615, the samurai, Naotaka Ii was walking in the street near the temple. He saw a maneki-neko who was beckoning in the temple, so he decided to go in and take a rest. As soon as he went into the temple, it started raining with a heavy thunderstorm. He believed it was the luck from the cat that drew him in just before the rain. He made this temple his family temple and built a graveyard for his cat when in died. When doing so, he also made a figure of cat that brought fortune to him, and this is said to be the origin of maneki-neko.

A variety types of maneki-neko.

Check which hand the cat has up!

When you see the maneki-neko, please check which hand it has up. If its right hand is up, it is said to bring fortune and money. If its left hand is up, it is believed that it is beckoning people, or customers. Maneki-neko cats are usually calico cats, but sometimes they have white, black, and red ones. Calico cats are Japanese cats that have white, brown, and black hair. They can see things well in the dark by lighting their eyes. The red cats are believed to protect people from disease due to their color. People other than Japanese business owners also love maneki-neko. Why not buy one as a souvenir when you visit Japan?


2-24-7 Gōtokuji, Setagayaka-ku, Tokyo

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Writer/ Translator

I love Japanese folkcraft article, traditional handicrafts and antiques. I’m seeking the Japanese people’s religious outlooks and its origins that are behind Japanese people’s unique sense and techniques rooted in the ordinary life.


Address 2-24-7 Gōtokuji, Setagaya-ku, Tokyo
Phone 03-3426-1437