Thursday, February 22, 2018


Setagaya lies on the south-western side of Tokyo and is probably a bit off the beaten track for most tourists, but I took a trip over there to visit Gotokuji (豪徳寺) [often referred to by the redundant title of Gotokuji Temple].

Gotokuji is purported to be the birthplace of the maneki neko (招き猫), but I haven't really looked into how far back this claim dates to. The story follows the general storyline of many maneki neko narratives, with a cat who lived in the temple beckoning a passing lord (in this case Ii Naotaka) to take shelter in the temple during a rainstorm. After entering the temple, the tree under which the lord was originally sheltering is struck by lightning, resulting in the lord becoming a benefactor of the temple out of gratitude for his good fortune. Eventually, statues of the cat are sold as good luck charms for people who believed in the magical powers of the cat.

I probably let my imagination carry me away after reading blog posts about there being thousands of cat statues at the temple, so I was a bit confused when I arrived to find not a single maneki neko in sight.

The statues are actually located to one side of a shrine within the temple.

The maneki neko are on the left side of this shrine.

Some other interesting things I saw around Gotokuji Station included the local tram in maneki neko livery to commemorate the 110th anniversary of the old Tamagawa Line.

Setagaya Line Tram

A business in the educational services industry called リライフ (which I will transcribe as ReLIFE).

ReLIFE on the 3rd floor to the left.

After visiting Gotokuji, we stopped by Shimokitazawa (aka Shimokita), a bohemian neighborhood that some people liken to Koenji or UraHara.

We only spent a couple of hours walking around, but it seemed like an interesting area. I didn't see any places selling toys or figures, but there were a couple of arcade centers. There are supposed to be many theaters and live houses in the area as well. It would probably be nice to visit during the summer, particularly during the Shimokitazawa Music Festival.

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