garden, architecture, art

Gotokuji Temple

Speaking of a nice figurine which brings good fortune and good business is about a beckoning cat. It is popular among foreigners for the cat’s unique and lovely form that raises one’s hand to bring fortune. Gotokuji, located at a neat housing estate in Setagaya Ward, is known for one of the birthplaces of a beckoning cat.

Gotokuji is also Bodai Temple in Edo of the Ii family from Hikone, Shiga. In addition, the beckoning cat became a model of the mascot in Hikone City, “Hikonyan.”

Although there are some temples known for the beckoning cat in various places in Japan, few temples have so many beckoning cats. It is a temple that you feel like getting fortune just from seeing the beckoning cats in Shofukuden next to the Buddhist temple.

A temple related to the Ii family

The previous temple was “Kotokuin,” which Kira Masatada, the fifth lord of Setagaya castle, established to mourn for his aunt in 1480. In 1633, the domain lord of Hikone Ii Naotaka maintenanced a temple, then it became Bodai Temple of the Ii family and changed the name to Gotokuji.

The Buddhist sanctum which is placed at the center of the temple was built in 1677. Since one area of the shrine is a grave of the Ii family, the graves including Seiryoji in Hikone, Shiga and Eigenji in Higashiomi are all designated as a national historic site “a grave of the domain lord of Hikone Ii family.” There are many cultural heritage sites related to the Ii family; for example, the Buddhist sanctum, temple bell, and Buddha statue.

Moreover, the grave of Ii Naosuke,who is famous for “Ansei Purge” and “Sakuradamon Incident,” is designated as a historic site in Tokyo.

A beckoning cat and Gotokuji

The origin of the relationship between Gotokuji and cat dates back to the beginning of the Edo period, when Gotokujin was still called Kotokuin.

It is said that when Ii Naosuke passed by Gotokuji, he walked in the temple guided by the temple’s beckoning white cat. Suddenly outside of the temple, there was a thunderstorm, yet Ii Naosuke could avoid the thunderstorm thanks to the temple.

Ii Naosuke was impressed and reconstructed Kotokuin into Bodai Temple of the Ii family. The white cat was enshrined in “Shofukudo.”

At the three-storied pagoda, you can see the carvings of Oriental Zodiac in the animal symbols order, but in the order of a mouse, a beckoning cat is decorated instead of a mouse. A mouse holds out an oval gold coin to the cat.

Generally, a beckoning cat often holds an oval gold coin written get-rich-quick, yet this beckoning cat does not hold it. This means that “it will present an opportunity but you should get the fortune by yourself.”

Shofukuden

Shofukuden with many beckoning cats is located next to the main hall. There are beckoning cats in many sizes devoted to Shofukuden. The view of more than 1,000 beckoning cats make us feel as if we get lost in another world, and we never forget the sight.

In fact, these beckoning cats are all devoted by the visitors. A beckoning cat is said to have the power to grant a wish, and when your wish comes true you can get more fortune if you devote it to Gotokuji. That is why so many beckoning cats are gathered in Gotokuji.

You can buy the beckoning cat at the reception of Gotokuji. The small beckoning cat is a best souvenir. The fortune is all the same, so please choose your favorite beckoning cat.

Not only the beckoning cats but also the charms for family and for business, and the votive tablets which a beckoning cat and the year’s animal symbols painted, are available.

Hikonyan

The popular mascot of Hikone, Shiga “Hikonyan” is modeled for the cat in “Gotokuji.” “Hikonyan” was born combined with a beckoning cat in “Gotokuji” and “Akazonae helmet,” which was a symbol of the Ii family governed Hikone Domain.

Auther:Hiroko Hirachi

Writer for website, magazine, and newspaper. Used to be a newspaperman. Also active as a yoga teacher, teaching at temple.

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