Feb 17, 2011

Tracing the roots of 招き猫

Do you know what a 招き猫 (maneki neko) or 招财猫 is?

My initial impression of 招き猫 is: One, it is a symbol of Japan; Two, it is like a fengshui tool. Many shop owners will place one near their cash registers.

But actually 招き猫 grants wishes. And not just those related to wealth.

So what's the story behind a 招き猫? There are actually 3 versions on the English wiki and 4 versions on the Japanese wiki. (0_0)

Mmm... which is true? Well... I am not sure, but I decided to make a trip to trace the roots of the 招き猫.

A small 招き猫 temple can be found within the 豪徳寺. It was built in 1480! So it is actually about 600 years old now. It is located in Tokyo, so you can actually make a brief stop at this temple in between the shopping sprees.

The nearest station is 宮の坂駅 instead of 豪徳寺駅. It takes about 5-8 minutes stroll from the station to the temple.

View Larger Map

The 招き猫 temple is located on the left of the main 豪徳寺.

There were really many many of the 招き猫 statues. You can buy them from the reception. The smallest cost 500yen.

Like other temples, you can write your wishes on the wooden plates.

It is a very quiet temple. I almost left without buying a 招き猫, as I couldn't find anyone there to enquire where to get one.

If the mini shop is closed at the 招き猫 temple (like it was for me), you can buy them at the main reception area of the 豪徳寺. Do press the bell at the counter though, to catch the attention of the staff.

While preparing for the blog post, I researched a little on the reason behind the many 招き猫 statues. Some said they were to pray for their pets' health. Others said, wishes are not restricted to pets only, you can wish for anything- health, love etc. But believers will return to the temple and place one 招き猫 statue at the temple if their wish came true. This will then bring more good luck to them.

And according to the 豪徳寺 legend (the story was printed and given together with the 招き猫 statue that I bought), the priest at 豪徳寺 had a cat. They were very poor and he would share whatever food he had with his cat. One summer, a wealthy feudal lord passed by the 豪徳寺 with his troops. The lord saw the temple priest's cat beckoning to him and followed. A moment later, dark clouds gathered and the location where they were was struck by lightning. The grateful lord then returned and helped to rebuild the temple. When the cat died, the monk built a tomb for it in the temple premises, and also made the first 招き猫 statue in its honour.

Mmm... very intriguing, isn't it?

No comments: