It’s no secret that Japan has a lot of temples and shrines, and it’s also no secret that Japan has a thing for neko (cats). So it makes sense that Japan would have a cat temple and a cat shrine, because what is better than one holy cat place–two of course. But today we will not be speaking about the Gotokuji Buddhist Temple in the western part of Tokyo. Today is dedicated to the Imado Shinto Shrine in the eastern part of Tokyo.
Checkout this short video of Imado Jinja, and then read-on to learn more:
Imado Jinja is known as the birthplace of “Maneki-Neko” or the “Beckoning Cats” you usually see in most Japanese shops, restaurants, and other businesses. They are supposed to “beckon” people to come inside and buy their goods, and they are also a sign of happiness and good fortune.
The the origin of the maneki-neko is disputed, but here are a couple of stories I like:
A long time ago, an old woman with a cat live in Asakusa. The old woman was so poor that she had to get rid of her cat. She was left crying, until the cat appeared in the old woman’s dream and said to her, “Turn me into a doll. Then you’ll be happy.” The old woman did as she was told and made a doll that became the maneki-neko. Everyone wanted the dolls and she made a lot of money, which helped her live happily.
A wealthy man who took shelter from a rainstorm under a tree next to a temple. He noticed a cat that seemed to be beckoning to him, so he followed it inside the temple. Shortly thereafter, lightning struck the tree he had been standing under. Because the cat had saved his life, the man was so grateful, he became a benefactor of the temple and brought it much prosperity. When he passed away, a statue of the cat was made in his honor.
But that isn’t the only reason Imado Shrine is so popular. The main reason is that this shrine is supposed to have “matchmaking” powers! The gods Izanagi and Izanami are enshrined here, and they are known as the first couple ever to get “married.” So people believe that if you visit this shrine, you will find your true love! It is very popular among young women looking for love.
Whether you want to find love, or just want to look at the hundreds of cats there, you should make a trip to Asakusa and head to Imado Shrine. It is a short walk from Asakusa Station, and it is absolutely free!