Imado Shrine – A Destination for Cat Lovers in Tokyo
If you love cats, there are several places to visit in Japan and especially many souvenirs to buy. One of the most popular souvenirs are maneki-neko, the figures of beckoning cats promising to bring luck to its owners. There are actually two places called out to be the birthplace of these cats in Japan. The more popular one is Gotokuji, a Buddhist temple in Setagaya ward, which is covered by a huge number of white maneki-neko figures. But in this article I want to introduce you to the second location which is known as the birthplace of maneki-neko: Imado Jinja!
The Story Behind Maneki-neko
Imado Jinja (今戸神社) is a small Shinto shrine located in the Asakusa area about 15 minutes by walking from Asakusa station. Its history dates back to the 11th century.
There are many stories about the birth of maneki-neko. One of them says that there was an old woman living in Imado who was very poor, so poor that she had to abandon her pet cat because she couldn’t feed it any longer. In the night that cat appeared in her dream and told her to make figures looking like it. So the old woman started to produce cat dolls with Imado-yaki pottery, the type of ceramic which was well-known at this area back then. They became very popular and the woman became rich.
What to See at Imado Shrine
Imado Shrine is a great destination for cat lovers in Tokyo, because you can see cat figures everywhere! Already at the entrance gate you are welcomed by a maneki-neko sign. But there is a lot more to explore on the shrine grounds.
Unlike at Gotokuji Temple where all the figures look alike, most of the cat figures at Imado Shrine are different in their appearance which makes it very interesting to take a look around.
The ema, wooden wish plates, you can find at Imado Shrine also have a maneki-neko design which is really cute and can differ. Same goes for all the souvenirs such as keychains, omamori, small figures and more you can buy at the purchasing window.
Especially for people who collect goshuin (shrine stamps) you shouldn’t miss to get yours at Imado Shrine, because it also includes a cat stamp. Or even better: you can buy a new stamp book there with cats on it.
Finding Your Match at Imado Shrine
Next to seeing many cat figures at Imado Shrine, you can pray for finding your perfect match there. The shrine is associated with good relationships and known as enmusubi shrine ("match-making shrine") nowadays. It is dedicated to three gods; two of them are Izanagi and Izanami which are known as the first married couple in Shinto mythology. This is one reason why it is especially popular among young women trying to find their love.
So, when you are in the Asakusa area, like cats, or just want to see a lovely small shrine, don’t miss to take a look by!