The most famous cat in the world is perhaps the Maneki-neko, or the cat-shaped figurine with a raised paw that comes directly from Japan.

However, few people know that the alleged origin of this statuette comes from a Japanese temple: the Gōtokuji Temple.

The Gōtokuji temple

Located within the Setagaya district, one of the residential areas of Tokyo, it is not well known by general tourists and is rarely visited by them. However, in our opinion this is an unmissable destination for all Japan lovers.

The Gōtokuji temple is an unmissable destination for all cat lovers precisely because it houses several thousand Maneki-Neko figurines of various sizes.

The history of Gōtokuji Temple

Gōtokuji Temple is a well-preserved feudal cemetery from the Edo era. This makes it one of the most iconic National Historic Landmarks in the area.

Legend has it that Naotaka, the lord of Hikone, was invited into the temple by a cat who beckoned him with its paw. Suddenly a storm broke out and the lord was impressed by the luck that the cat brought him at just the right time. This pushed him to help with the restoration work on the temple, completed in 1633.


Subsequently, the Shofuku-den was built as part of the temple to house the lucky cat, hence giving it the name “Maneki-neko”. From then on, many people visit Shofuku-den to pray for well-being, prosperity, luck and happiness.

You can find the famous and numerous cat statues of all sizes in one corner of the temple.

The cemetery and history

Inside the temple there is a cemetery that belongs to the Naotaka clan, who made the temple his best-known legacy. The cemetery is also home to many famous Japanese figures, including karate master Oyama Masutatsu and several Prime Ministers.

Furthermore, in the temple you can also find beautiful gardens that offer a serene retreat from the hustle and bustle of Tokyo.


The symbolism behind the Maneki-neko

The Maneki-neko is one of the most beloved Japanese symbols in the West. However, the statue is not directly a bringer of happiness, but gives the possibility of establishing bonds with certain people. The final result depends entirely on your own efforts.

The message behind Maneki-neko is that if you live in constant gratitude, luck and happiness will come spontaneously.