Hidden out deep in Setagaya, this ‘cat temple’ tells the story of a samurai who got saved from a lightning-struck tree by a beckoning cat. The cat figurines are sold at the administration building and customarily returned to the temple shelves after wishes are granted.Getting there is half the fun, too: if you take the Tokyu Setagaya tram line (get off at Miyanosaka or Yamashita stations), some of the trams are decked out in maneki-neko style.
You’ll find plenty of bakeries around Gotokuji temple which offer maneki-neko-shaped baked goods, but Tohiken, a sweets shop close to Gotokuji Station, specialises in them. Pick up some lucky cat-shaped butter cookies, manju or some DIY monaka – the anko (sweet red bean paste) filling and wafers are kept separate until you construct the treat yourself to avoid a soggy moggy.
The eastern area of Asakusa is also rich in cat history. One of the more out-there maneki-neko origin stories, involving a courtesan, a decapitated cat, and a lunging snake, is said to have taken place in Imado Jinja. It remains a popular destination for people seeking good luck in love and marriage, due to the fact it enshrines a deity couple. Alongside maneki-neko, there are many prayer goods with feline imagery on sale, including some cute embroidered lucky charms. The fences around the shrine are also adorned with maneki-neko-embossed ema plaques conveying the hopes and prayers of aspiring romantics
Located on Kappabashi-dori, or Tokyo’s Kitchen Street, Koide Shoten (aka Orner Koide) is one of the few shops in Tokyo to specialise in maneki-neko. It has a vast selection of beckoning felines in a diverse range of styles and prices – you can pick up a cat starting from ¥220, and you’ll also find funky designs such as a daruma-maneki-neko crossover or cat-topped wind chimes.
For lucky cat goods with a designer touch, make a beeline for Yanakado and its sister shops, Nekoemon Café and Sweets Necoemon. You’ll find high-quality figurines, cups and handkerchiefs with maneki-neko imagery, and even an entire rack of ‘birthday maneki-neko’: little keychain lucky cats with different designs depending on your date of birth.
If you’re feeling creative, head to Nekoemon Café next door to paint your own maneki-neko while munching on cat-shaped cakes. Top it all off with some cat-shaped baked goods at Sweets Necoemon down the road. If you don’t get lucky after all that, there’s probably no helping you...
Sweets Necoemon: 7-18-9 Yanaka, Taito-ku. 11am-6pm, closed irregular hols
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