Gotokuji Temple

Sights Type / Religious
  • Gotokuji Temple
  • Gotokuji Temple
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Location

Tokyo, Japan

Address

3-1-1 Kudankita Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo 102-8246, Japan

Getting there

Access: It takes about 5 minutues from Miyanoshita Station

From Tokyo station, it takes about 45 mins.
From Shinjuku Station, it takes about 20 mins.

1. Take Chuo Line by JR to Shinjuku Station from Tokyo Station
2. Take Odakyu Line to Gotokuji Station
3. Walk 7 mins to Gotokuji Temple

Telephone

+81 334261437

More information

https://facebook.com/pages/Gotokuji-Temple

Prices

Free admissions

Opening hours

6:00 to 18:00. No closing days

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Just a few minutes from Tokyo bustling districts such as Shinjuku or Shibuya, is Setagaya Ward. You'll dive into it to get to Gotokuji, a temple considered at the origin of the well known Maneki-Neko: the cat that welcomes visitors with its right paw up in the air.

Anyone who has been to Japan or has an interest in the country is sure to have seen the Maneki Neko that are quite common outside (and inside) restaurants and shops. Maneki Neko literally means, “beckoning cat”, and is a small figurine that is believed to bring luck, customers and money. You also see them on TV, in books, practically everywhere. And their home is Gotokuji, which is a temple in Tokyo’s Setagaya ward.

It is a lovely little place with few visitors, very different to the larger temples and shrines like Sensoji or Meiji Jingu (Meiji Shrine) that are tourist magnets. Gotokuji is out in the suburbs, so it takes a little effort to get to. With the cats, a pagoda and lots of trees all around, the temple complex has a really lovely atmosphere. And as the temple has a large cemetery, you’ll also find most Japanese go there to attend their family graves, so noise is very minimal – great for the cats, nice and quiet.

We think most people would be quite surprised on their first visit. The area where the cats are located is quite small, probably five meters in length and maybe one meter wide. However in that small area are a lot of Maneki Neko, over 1000!  The cats are of all different sizes too. Some are quite large but many of them are very small. They all have one thing in common though – they are very cute!  With that upraised beckoning paw don’t be surprised if you want to take one home with you. If you do want to buy one, you can do that too as the temple’s administration building that is just around the corner has them for sale, ranging from the miniature through to the very big!

Gotokuji Temple

“Let’s start with Gotokuji Temple on the west side of the city. The maneki-neko here really look authentic. It all started when the family cat of Ii Naosuke (influential late-Edo period ‘Daimyo’) was interred at the temple grounds. However, it is also true that a shopping street near the temple has long been named ‘Tama-nyan shotengai’ (‘Meowing Tama Shopping Street’). With it’s ‘Hall of Maneki-neko’ and ‘Maneki-neko Tower’, not to mention the lovely facial expression of its representative maneki-neko itself, this place is great for cat-lovers. More precisely, this temple is a healing maneki-neko ‘power spot’.”

Gotoku-ji complex itself is quite large and consists of several buildings, including a main lodge, a pagoda and the Ii clan cemetery. Older people from the neighborhood come to stroll, take their lunch or paint nature that everyone can contemplate.

It consists of Main Hall, Butsuden Hall and so on. Its temple grounds are very beautiful with plants such as Japanese maple, gingko, and weeping cherry tree, as if it were a Japanese garden. Plants and temple halls are well harmonized. Also, you can find pine trees along the approach.

Moreover, it is also known as the Buddhist temple of Ii family. There are tumbs of Ii family including Naotaka Ii (1590-1659) and Naosuke Ii (1815-1860).

It has a history since 1480. It is a middle-sized Buddhist temple of Soto sect at residential area in Gotokuji, Setagaya City, Tokyo. Its nearest station is Miyanosaka station.

But the main point of interest of the visit, for many of you, will be this impressive place of worship for Maneki-Neko: small in size but incredible by the number of statues it holds. There are countless cats of all sizes, forming a whole shrine which is likely to entertain many people. It's also possible to buy a Manekineko the shop nearby (prices go up to 5.000¥ for larger ones)!

Upon leaving Gotokuji, take the opportunity to catch the tram nearby, generally not used so much when traveling to Tokyo, to continue your visits of the day.

Gotokuji: The Temple of The Beckoning Cats

Many Japanese shops, restaurants and other businesses keep a little cat doll with its paw raised near their entrances. It is a common Japanese figurine – a lucky charm – called Maneki Neko, which literally means “beckoning cat”, and is believed to bring good luck and money to the owner. Usually made of ceramic or plastic, the figurine depict a cat with an upright paw as if beckoning people towards it. It is said that the raised paw brings in customers, while the other paw brings in good luck and wealth. Some modern Maneki Neko are battery-powered and have a slow-moving beckoning paw. Today, these figurines are becoming increasingly popular among merchants in other Asian countries as well, and just like the ubiquitous “laughing buddha” statues, the Maneki Neko have transcended all boundaries, both physical and religious. But their true home will always remain in Gotokuji, a temple in Tokyo’s Setagaya ward.

Gotokuji temple is tucked away in a relatively quiet residential neighborhood in the suburbs of Tokyo, and very easily missed if one did not know where to find the gate. The temple is small compared to others around Tokyo, but is said to be a very beautiful one with plants such as Japanese maple, gingko, and weeping cherry tree, as if it were a Japanese garden. In one corner of the temple in a small area with shelves dedicated to stacking as many cats as possible. Hundreds of them.

There are several legends about the origins of this cat charm, but the most one widely known story goes back to the Edo period. The story goes that a wealthy feudal lord from Hikone (a city in present-day Shiga Prefecture) was taking shelter under a tree near Gotokuji temple during a thunderstorm. The lord saw the temple priest's cat beckoning to him and followed. Moment later the tree was struck by lightning. The lord became so thankful of the cat’s deed that he donated large funds to make the temple grand and generous. When the cat died, the first Maneki Neko was supposed to have made in his honor. As time went on, people began to offer Maneki Neko figurines to the temple as a sign of gratitude when their wishes came true.

Overall, the temple's definitely a great place to experience a different side of Tokyo, one that's away from the hustle-and-bustle of the city. It's in a quiet, nice residential area, surrounded by small mom-and-pop shops and narrow streets. It's a beautiful walk from the station to the temple during the spring season when cherry blossoms are in full-bloom. If you want to check out a quiet, quirky temple instead of the various famous and tourist-oriented shrines and temples in Tokyo, Gotokuji might be a trip worth making!

How to get there

There are several ways to go to Gotoku-ji, but we advise you take the train (at least on the way trip). After stopping at the eponymous station, walk a few minutes in the quiet and very pleasant Setagaya neighborhood. Along the way, some indices are scattered through drawings of cats everywhere in the streets.

From Tokyo station, it takes about 45 mins.

From Shinjuku Station, it takes about 20 mins.

1. Take Chuo Line by JR to Shinjuku Station from Tokyo Station

2. Take Odakyu Line to Gotokuji Station 

3. Walk 7 mins to Gotokuji Temple

Reviews by visitors

As I was staying in Tokyo for a few days only and was not sure the journey to this place was worth it. I really do not regret, the park was not only beautiful but interesting. You learn a bit about the monk's cat and can take very nice pictures in the surroundings (the cemetery). You can buy a cat and place it with the others to bring you good wealth..

~emilie

This is a very pleasant, small temple with many, many statues of waving cats. There isn't much else to recommend it, but seeing the shrine full of cat statues was something different. It's a bit out of the way, so if you're on a schedule you'll probably want to skip it, but if you're looking for a lazy afternoon, this is a good spot to spend part of it.

~andrew

Since we love cats, we figured that visiting a waiving cat temple is a must. It was cute but very small, I thought there will be so many cats figures and motives but there is only a small part on the side of one of the building that has figurines of cats, but that's it! So it's 40 min train ride from the center of Tokyo and then probably a 10 min walk from the station - if you have lots of free time, you may want to visit, but if here on a short vacation, don't bother.

~kasia

We made a rush trip there on Monday late morning as we wasted time on the following:

> Walking to the odakyu line station entrance, instead of going to the platform from Shinjuku south gate entrance. 
> The odakyu line station has several platforms, we missed the local train (which stops at every stop of the odakyu line) after spending some time to find the correct platform.

> Since we missed the local line, we waited 10 minutes for the next train. The Gotokuji Station is 9 stations away (~20 minutes) from Shinjuku.

> Google map labelled the entire area as Gotokuji and the temple as Gohtokuji. So when we searched distance to Gotokuji temple from Gotokuji Station, we were given a distance of 200m instead of the 1km distance. We realised it after cross-checking google map with the station's vicinity map. As we had elderlies, we took more than 20 minutes to walk to the temple through a neighbourhood with little trees and shelters.

In the end, we had less than 15 minutes for the temple (found and took pictures of the altar with many Maneki Neko) and no time for the garden. 

There were less than 10 visitors at the temple when we were there. There are many trees in the temple and its adjoining garden. Therefore, the temple actually feel cooler than outside. I will definitely want to go there again at a more leisure pace next time. Didn't find the shop to buy a Maneki Neko though.

~simply

This is the temple of beckoning cats...there are hundreds of them. As it's a little off the beaten track (30 mins on the Odakyu Line from Shinjuku), it wasn't especially busy and with the cats and the sakura (and all the artists painting it) I though it was wonderful. It was nice to see something a little different and the area around it was also nice for a little walk. 

When you get to Gotokuji station, turn left, walk around 400m and your there.

~mat

This place is gorgeous! Beautiful temple, the home of "Maneki Neko", fairly easily reachable from Gotokuji train station (odakyu line), and also the grave of important samurai families.

~julia

I found this temple through a Japanese facebook page, and for prosperity cat lovers, you will sure love this place! The environment nearby the temple was good too. I love this place pretty much as I can take photos when there are not many tourists crowding around.

~jia

Wonderful temple in the suburb of Setagaya, just 45 minute train ride from Tokyo Station. Dedicated to the little waving cat, maneki neko. The temple is surprisingly vast and expansive. Not a known tourist site so the atmosphere is quiet and peaceful. There is a lovely wooden pagoda, wooden temple buildings and even a local cemetery where a well known samurai is buried. And of course there are thousands of the little cats, the maneki neko. Quaint and off the beaten path.

~nompa

I wanted to visit the Gotoku-ji since a long time. It's a bit far from Tokyo, but if you spend enough time in this huge city, it's a good idea to go to discover the Gotoku-ji. I recommand the Setagaya tramway, very cute. We felt as we were in a Ghibli movie !

The Gotoku-ji is big enough to spend 1h : pagoda, main temple, a big cemetery and a loooot of cats. Autumn is a great season to visit it, thanks to the red leaves.

~coco

Near to the station of Gotokuji of Odakyu line. Not very large area but quiet, beautiful and peaceful atomosphere. Worth to visit when you visit nearby area.

~masaofc

There is more than one story about the origins of Maneki Neko , the waving cat. However, get the one printed in English at the souvenir shop in the temple grounds. It is probably the most authentic. We said a little prayer for the cats of our acquaintance.

~lim

Please take Odakyu line from Shinjuku and get off at Gotokuji station

(same name as the temple). Express train will not stop there so please take local(only 15 minutes ride). It is your choice if you take a tram to go one stop south or walk down15 minutes to reach there. The Gotokuji temple is famous for two things. One is beckoning cat. A monk asked a cat he kept and loved to do some favor for him and the cat beckoned a Samurai passing by to the temple and soon after heavy rain fell and The samurai thanked

the monk and decided to have family tomb there as he has just moved from his original area and because of the donation the temple got richer and richer and bigger and bigger. Another is that descendant of the Samurai family

became a high ranking officials in the Tokugawa Shogunate government and reopened the door of Japan shut for 300 years to foreigners, few years before Togugawa decided to give power back to Meiji Emperor, and were killed

for the reason. His and of course his family tombs were in the temple.

~keizo

Kinda tricky to find after getting off the train. A little farther than the maps indicated b/c the entrance is on the south side. So it was a pretty long, hot walk But a big complex with lots to see. The many cats are kind of hidden in the NW corner, oddly. Really cool cemetary there too with impressive gravestones.

~kim

A nice Buddhist temple with an interesting history. In the middle of a residential area. Quiet, relaxing and pleasant. Well maintained garden. Temple office provides a sheet in English. They sell cat figures in multiple sizes which make good souvenir. We took a local train from Odakyu line Shinjuku station. It’s about a 15 minute ride. Got off at Gotokuji station and walked toward south about 10 minutes. I recommend bring print out map with you. It’s a little tricky. We could not reach the gate directly. We came to a wall with woods inside, walked along the wall to find the gate. It’s off the beaten path, but we were glad we visited.

~jing

Not big on cats myself, however my wife insisted. Once their, I found it very pleasant, peaceful and relaxing. Well marked, from train station. Leave a cat and be part of the history.

~kat

My wife is a huge cat lover and when she heard there was a cat temple we had to go. The Temple was easy to get to get to by train and was a short walk from the station. The entrance we first walked to was closed. We had to walk around the property to the main entrance to get in. There is a small gift shop type counter that sells ceramic cats. With any cat purchase you will get a very well written English story about the temple. Don't miss this, its a great read about the history of the temple and the waving cat. The surrounding area is very residential with some small shops selling the usual small tourist items.

~key

This temple complex, the home of the famous Maneki Neko, is in the middle of a suburban area so does not get the hoards of visitors so commonly seen at other attractions in Tokyo. A great place to relax and quietly contemplate... or do as the locals and bring paper, pencil, paint rather than a camera. It's an easy walk from several local stations (see Google or Apple maps) but why not try one of the two tram lines left in Tokyo and get out at Miyanosaka that is less than 300m from the temple entrance.

~payt

Everyone has seen the beckoning cat figure in restaurants and shops, but we don't stop to think about where the image originated. To find out, take the Odakyu line train from Shinjuku to Gotokuji station, and then it is about a 10 minute walk to the shrine where the Maneki-neko myth originated. (Follow the street that runs beside the street car line until you come to a set of boom gates, then turn left and you will see the shrine grounds.). This is a functioning shrine and cemetery, so don't expect a commercialised, "Hello Kitty" experience. However, my husband and I found the quiet dignity of the shrine quite moving. If you are a cat lover and/or interested in Japanese history and myth, this is a worthwhile way to spend a couple of hours.

~lolita

Here you are a small video tour that I made of the place http://youtu.be/0SrplLv8g7s

Hello Kitty may not actually be the most famous Japanese cat after all! It all started in 1697 according to the legend! At that time, before the Gotokuji Temple was what it is now, a poor and lonely priest was living alone with his cat. One day, during a heavy storm a rich nobleman was stranded in a heavy rainstorm and took refuge under a nearby tree. Once settled the nobleman saw the priest’s cat at the Temple’s entrance signaling him to enter. Surprised, the nobleman followed the cat and as soon as he moved toward the cat the tree was struck by lightning. Believing that the cat had saved his life the nobleman decided to become the temple’s benefactor and soon the temple became prosperous.

As you must have guessed by now, the Maneki Neko are charms for good luck and prosperity not only in Japan but all across Asia and especially in China.

Just for this story alone Gotokuji Temple is a “must see” when visiting Tokyo. Smaller than most famous temples around Tokyo, Gotokuji is unique for its design. It’s three-storied pagoda and Kyoto-like atmosphere give even more weight to this beautiful story of the Priest’s cat and the nobleman.

~ming

I recently moved to Gotokuji (Setagaya) and I was unaware of this beautiful gem just two minutes walk from my flat. It is a bit out of the beaten tracks, bit if you have some spare time, I recommend it, highly!

~gianni

The temple is within 10 minutes walk of Gotokuji station, about 15 minutes by train from Shibuya. In front of the station exit is a statue of a Maneki-neko lucky cat. At the temple you can buy Maneki-neko lucky charms in various sizes. And when the lucky cat has made your wish come true you can bring it back to Gotokuji temple. There is a corner at the temple where people place their Maneki-neko charms after they have done their work. The temple grounds and buildings are very well maintained and there is also a small cemetery here. It is a nice place to visit any time of the year.

~anton

Well I have to say I like Maneki Neko and have read various stories of its origin over the years and all are so interesting and fun to read so a visit here was certainly on my list.

If you do not really have a high level of interest in Maneki Neko and don't have a lot of time visiting Japan this may not be worth your time.

From Asakusa this was a bit time consuming to reach and pretty complicated as well. Once you arrive there are no visible signs of what direction to go. This is not a really touristy area so come with a map of the area if you can.

The temple was pretty quiet but I went early in the morning. I saw only 2 other people. It was very well kept up. It featured a nice Pagoda, Lovely trees, Lanterns and a very cool Incense Burner as well but the Maneki Neko statues by the hundreds were the real stars. For me I enjoyed the journey and peace but I can see how others may think it is a waste as there is not a ton of things to see apart from the temple and statues. 

So depending on your interests this will either be a fun adventure or a sad waste of time.

~chan

Lovely grounds to chill out in, and a small cat temple for cat lovers. Very quiet and out the way, but if you are in the vicinity, worth a visit.

~peter

Gotokuji is located in the beautiful suburb of Setagaya in Tokyo's west. I live in the area, and happened upon it while I was on an afternoon walk - I had no idea about it before! It's beautifully kept with moss covered grounds, a peaceful forest, pagoda, temple, cemetery and of course, the lucky cats! I seriously haven't seen anything like it before - to see so many statues of the same thing in the same place was a bit creepy at first but after learning the story/history, I actually think it's really cool. I went in summer and saw loads of green maple trees, so I recommend going in autumn to see them all turn shades of red/orange!

~bing

I had heard about this temple on a blog and was intrigued about the presence of so many Lucky cats (the famous statute of the white cat waving his paw) that I had to find it. So, off we trekked to the area of Setagaya- not usually a part of Tokyo explored by tourists particularly those with limited time in Tokyo but worth if for those with more time to explore the quirkier and less touristy parts of this amazing city. The best way to access this temple is by catching the train to Setagaya station. When you take the main exit, turn left and walk up a narrowish shopping street for about 1.5 kilometres. Eventually you will stumble across a walled off area to the left. This is the temple grounds.
There are several entrances to this temple but only the main entrance was open the day we went which has a cypress/fir tree lined street leading up to it. The temple grounds are very peaceful and being there on a Monday, we ran into only 2 or 3 people. The temple complex has nice grounds with a stunning pagoda carved out of wood. There are several buildings making up the temple complex including a lovely green roofed building and a belltower. There is also a very large cemetary.
The section of the temple devoted to the Lucky Cat is actually only a very small area of the complex. When you walk down the main entrance, walk straight ahead past the big urn (supported by 3 grumpy goblin looking critters ) and veer left. When you turn the corner of the shrine area you will see all the little white cat statutes clustered together, some of them the size of a fingernail! Peer into the housed altar area and you will see more cat devotion. Also have a close look at the carvings on the pagoda and you will see some cat statues carved above the doorway.

I enjoyed this temple as I love cats and am fascinated by the Lucky Cat concept. I also appreciated the tranquility of the place and the opportunity to explore another less touristy part of Tokyo. If that sounds like you, then I would recommend a trip out to this temple and combine it with a trip to another interesting temple in the Setagaya area called Tamgawa Daishi or Gyokushin MitsuinTemple. If you are strapped for time, then there are more famous and impressive temples in Tokyo to visit.
If you purchase any temple trinkets from the main registry area you will receive a one page flier in English, setting out the origins of the Lucky Cat and how the temple came to be devoted to the lucky cat.

~perth

If you are familiar with the White Cat who sits and waves his/her right paw, this is your place to visit. In a residential neighborhood of Setagaya, just 7 miles from Roppongi. If you are into walking, it is a delightful walk. If you go late November/early December, you will see all of the Japanese maples in blazing red.

~jey

This temple is where the japanes good luck cat charm "Maneki Neko" supposedly lived. You can find hundreds of big & little cat statues in this temple. The entrance is via a lane flanked by old impressive cypresses. The temple is very quiet and not only has a bell tower but also a pagoda.

Did you know Setagaya has many nice temples. On the other, West, side of the miyanosaka station is another nice temple. That station is serviced by a tram. When I lived there the carriages very post-war with wooden floors an wooden seats. I believe it's 1 of the only 2 tramlines in Tokyo.

~ann

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