Lucky cats or maneki-neko are ornaments thought to bring good luck to the owner. It is very common to see them in businesses as cats with their left paw raised are thought to encourage customers and cats with their right paw raised are thought to bring wealth.
However perhaps the best place to see lucky cats is Gotokuji Temple in Setagaya, Tokyo. Although the birthplace of maneki-neko is contentious, legend has it that Gotokuji temple is where maneki-neko originated. The story goes that a wealthy man was beckoned into the run-down temple by a cat and shortly after a huge thunderstorm started. As the man took shelter in the temple he was grateful for the cat's warning and decided to restore Gotokuji temple and make it his family's burial grounds. As Gotokuji Temple became associated with cats, people began to leave beckoning cat charms at the temple as a thank you for their wishes being granted.. and now there is a lot of them. I mean A LOT of them.
I'm not sure of how many lucky cats there are at this temple, but there are definitely hundreds of cats of all sizes and it is a very impressive sight to see. Don't forget to keep an eye out for the little tiny cats hidden away in nooks around the temple.
You can also purchase ema which are little wooden plaques that you write your wish on and tie to a fence in the temple. Ema come with many different decorations but unsurprisingly, the ema at Gotokuji temple are also adorned with lucky cats.
If you're in Tokyo for a while I'd definitely recommend visiting this hidden gem. Both Gotokuji and its surrounding area are very quiet and a lot more peaceful than the more famous temples in Tokyo. The temple closes at 6pm and entrance is free. Hopefully visiting Gotokuji brought me some good luck!
How to get there
Nearest Station: Gotokuji Station (Odakyu Line)