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Gotokuji Temple offers visitors a peaceful pocket away from the crowds of central Tokyo. Best known for its thousands of beckoning cat figurines, this centuries-old temple is a favorite for cat-lovers and history buffs.
The main temple buildings nestle between towering trees that blossom in the spring and turn colors in the autumn. During your visit, leave a cat figurine for good luck or just soak in the serene atmosphere.
This guide shares all the details you need to know to visit Gotokuji Temple.
Is It Worth Visiting Gotokuji Temple?
Yes, Gotokuji Temple is worth visiting.
This quiet temple in the western outskirts of Tokyo is famous for its thousands of Maneki-neko (“beckoning cat” figurines). A common misconception is that the cats are waving, but they are actually making a beckoning motion (see the legend of the temple further down in this article to understand why!).
Central Tokyo and many of its attractions, including old temples, can be a victim of their own success and overtourism. Gotokuji Temple is well-known, yet still under the radar enough to allow visitors to roam the grounds largely free from crowds.
Admission to Gotokuji Temple is free. Temple hours are from 6:00AM – 6:00PM daily.
Prefer to explore Gotokuji Temple through a guided tour? Check out these tours on Viator.
How To Get To Gotokuji Temple
📍Gotokuji Temple, 2 Chome-24-7 Gotokuji, Setagaya City, Tokyo 154-0021
Gotokuji Temple is 25 minutes by train west from Shibuya Station or 15 minutes by train southwest of Shinjuku Station.
From Shibuya Station, take the Den-en-toshi Line until Sangen-jaya Station. Transfer to the Tokyu-Setagaya Line and ride to Miyanosaka Station. A one-way trip from Shibuya Station to Miyanosaka Station costs about ¥340. From Miyanosaka Station, walk about 5 minutes through neighborhood streets until you reach Gotokuji Temple.
From Shinjuku Station, take the Odakyu Line to Gotokuji Station. A one-way trip from Shinjuku Station to Gotokuji Station costs about ¥200. From Gotokuji Station, walk roughly 10 minutes south.
The area surrounding Gotokuji Station has a few restaurants, but otherwise the temple’s surrounding neighborhood is very residential with limited food options.
The Legend Of Gotokuji Temple
Several legends circulate regarding the origin of Gotokuji Temple.
One of the most popular stories regales a struggling monk’s cat. Legend has it that in the 17th century, a poor monk lived on the site of the temple with his cat. The monk prayed that he would see a sign and that the temple would be lifted from destitution.
On a stormy night, a feudal lord passed near the temple looking for shelter. Through the heavy rain, he saw the monk’s cat beckoning him to take shelter at the temple. The storm intensified and the passerby was grateful to the cat for potentially saving his life. To show his appreciation, he became a patron of the ailing temple and assisted the monk to rebuild it.
Today, thousands of beckoning cat figures dot the temple in honor of the original cat that helped save the temple, monk, and feudal lord. Visitors from around the world leave Maneki-neko at the temple for good luck.
The Best Time Of Year To Visit Gotokuji Temple
Spring and autumn are the best seasons to visit Gotokuji Temple.
In the spring, sakura blossoms cloak the temple grounds with pink petals. Early signs of summer peak through the vibrant greenery of the surrounding trees.
In the autumn, colorful fall foliage blankets the temple. The white and red beckoning cat statues contrast the autumnal leaves beautifully.
Ema & Omikuji
Like at most temples and shrines in Japan, you will see ema and omikuji at Gotokuji Temple.
Ema are small wooden tablets on which people write prayers or wishes. Visitors hang ema at temples or shrines with the belief that deities will receive them.
Later, during special events, ema are ritually burned. The burning releases the prayer or wish from the person who made them.
Omikuji are fortunes written on thin slips of paper that visitors select at random from a dispenser at a temple or shrine. If the omikuji is unfavorable, the custom is for the receiver to tie it to a tree or other part of a temple or shrine in order to “let go” of the misfortune. If the omikuji is favorable, people will either keep it or tie it at the temple or shrine to hopefully maximize the effects of the good fortune.