Gōtokuji (豪徳寺), officially Daikeizan Gōtokuji, is a Sōtō Zen Buddhist temple located in Setagaya in western Tōkyō. It is the ancestral temple of the Ii family; some 300 of their clan members, including Ii Naosuke, are buried there. Legend has it that Gōtokuji is also the alleged birthplace of the Japanese "Beckoning Cat", the maneki neko (招き猫 ).


The original temple was built in the vicinity of former Setagaya Castle. In 1480, Kira Masayoshi (吉良政忠) erected a small temple for his aunt and called it Kotokuin (弘徳院). It belonged to the Rinzai sect but became a Sōtō Zen temple in 1584. The Kira clan (吉良氏), a cadet branch of the Ashikaga, were allies of Ōta Dōkan, the founder of Edo, and the Hōjō clan. When the Hōjō were defeated in 1590, the Kira abandoned the castle.

In 1633, parts of modern-day Setagaya Ward were appropriated by the Ii clan, the daimyō of Hikone Domain. In 1659, the temple, part of the Ii residences, was renamed Gōtokuji (豪徳寺), derived from the posthumous name of Ii Naotaka (井伊 直孝, 1590-1659). Later, Gōtokuji became the family temple of the Ii clan.

The Ii burial ground preserves the Edo-period pattern of daimyō family tombs and is one of the largest national historic sites in the Tōkyō area. The vast temple grounds comprise the main hall (honden), stone lanterns and a bell tower from the 17th century, as well as a lecture hall, a three-storied pagoda, a Jizō hall, the Shuetsuen Garden, and several other structures.

The birthplace of Maneki Neko

Maneki Neko (招き猫, "beckoning cats") are Japanese figurines commonly found in stores and restaurants. They are talismans made of porcelain, wood or plastic and believed to bring good luck to their owners. According to legend, an impoverished monk who lived at the temple grounds and who gained little income as a practising mendicant asked his beloved cat to help him bring fortune to the temple. One summer afternoon, the monk heard sounds at the temple gates and saw a few samurai returning home from falcon hunting. They had left their horses and approached the monk, explaining that a cat crouching at the gate had invited them in, lifting one arm and waving at them. The monk served them tea when suddenly the sky darkened and a heavy thunderstorm set in. He kept praying during the endless storm, and when the skies cleared again, one of the samurai - delighted by the monk's courtesy - introduced himself as Ii Naotaka. Naotaka vowed his support and donated land to the temple which found itself henceforth under the aegis of the Ii clan.

More images in the Gōtokuji album.


Miyanosaka Station (宮の坂駅) via Tokyo Setagaya Line (a 5-minute walk from the station) or Gōtokuji Station via Odakyu Line (a 9-minute walk).

Admission: free; open daily from 06:00-18:00.


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