After visiting the Gotokuji Cat temple, I also read about a cat shrine, which is in the East of Tokyo. I was curious to find out the difference, and so I did a bit more research.
I stumbled upon another legend that relates to this shrine: Once upon a time, an old woman lived in Imado. She was so poor that she was forced to let go of her beloved cat, and she sat her free in the grounds of the Imado Shrine. That night, the animal appeared in her dream, and told her to make and sell its image in clay. She listened to its advice, sold thousands of cat statues and became very wealthy.
As if one lucky cat isn’t enough, the shrine is home to a male and a female cat joined together in their beckoning pose. The Maneki Neko cats sit under a plaque that says “tying the knot”. So no wonder that a lot of single people visited the shrine, while I was there!
There is a smaller shrine to the right of it, which is even fuller of cat statues and kitschy decorations. Not pictured, but even similar is the small office/shop to the right of the main shrine building, where you can buy all these cat statues and even more cat souvenirs.
The Imado Jinja Shrina is a 15-minutes walk away from Asakusa station, in the heart of an old, quiet neighbourhood. Compared to Gotokuji, the shrine is much smaller, and a little harder to find. I followed this yellow map (the cat temple is on the top, right hand side) and also checked with Google maps to ensure I am on the right way.
There are a few more green signs with cats that help you to find the shrine:
This is the entrance, which looks the same as a common Shinto shrine:
And that leads to the small courtyard, which is home to a couple of big trees and lots of votive tablets in hope of happy love. It is not nicely landscaped, it is just a gravel-covered area – but then the whole focus of the temple is to facilitate love – and not to please the eye :)
These wooden plaues are called Ema on which Shinto worshippers write their prayers or wishes. The ema are then left hanging up at the shrine, where the kami (spirits or gods) are believed to receive them. Of course, the ones at this shrine were all cat themed – and I am guessing, mostly about love.
Next to the wooden tablets are some funny looking cat statues – they look like they are from a comic:
Quite surprisingly, there are some benches next to the wooden plates – and they are all with Disney-motifs. Lots of mice on these benches, maybe to fit in with the cat theme? Or is it because Mickey Mouse is already in love with Minnie Mouse and that is a good sign or omen for visitors of this shrine? I do not know the answer to this question.
While you are there, don’t miss the collection of plastic cat-shaped watering cans. Actually, they’re pretty hard to ignore as they are everywhere. And yes, you can buy a souvenir cat-shaped water can to take home with you too!
It is an interesting little shrine, but I found it very kitschy. I would not go out of my way to travel there, but it is a good idea to combine it with a visit to Asakusa’s Senso-ji Temple and the Kappabashi Street, as these attractions are both close by.
And finally, an interesting fact I’ve learnt: There’s an important difference in which paw the cat holds up — right beckons luck for a person, left brings luck in work. Both paws up is just greedy!