Omatsudaigongen shrine in Anan City, Tokushima Prefecture, lies close to Kamodani Junior High School. It also goes by the name Nekokamisan, and is known for the many visitors who come here to pray for success at school.
Tokushima Prefecture is also suffering from a dwindling birthrate and an ageing population, and the present number of students is close to half of what is was at its peak.
However, the number of visitors that come to pray at the shrine has not decreased. This is because the shrine has a peculiar characteristic.
The shrine is filled with cats, cats, and more cats!
Even the guardian dogs are cats!!
Omatsudaigongen shrine dates back to the Edo period. At that time it was known as Giridaigongen and was secretly worshipped at by ordinary people.
The village headman’s wife, who was called Omatsu, is enshrined here. The reason for why an ordinary person was enshrined can be found in an incident that happened during the Edo period.
As the village was having problems due to a poor harvest, Sobei, the village headman, borrowed money from a wealthy man with his property as security. though Sobei repaid his debts in full, the wealthy man falsely accused him of failing to repay and refused to return the deeds to his property. Sobei eventually died a broken man. His wife Omatsu went to the magistrate’s office to complain on her dead husband’s behalf. However, the wealthy man had bribed the magistrate, so he unjustly ruled against Omatsu.
After this, in spite of knowing that her sentence might be raised to the death penalty, Omatsu appealed directly to the feudal lord and objected to the abuse of authority and the injustice she had suffered. She was indeed sentenced to death and died filled with sorrow. To avenge Omatsu, her beloved calico cat turned into a bakeneko (monster cat with magical powers), and tormented the family of the wealthy man and the magistrate, and eventually ended them altogether.
Determined to carry out justice even in the face of death, Omatsu was idolized as a heroine of the oppressed people, and revered as someone they could rely on.
You can see this series of events depicted in a collage, which is part of a shrine exhibition.
For having dealt with the wicked wealthy man and the corrupt magistrate, Omatsudaigongen is said to grant good luck and victory, and to be a potent charm for passing school entrance exams. Furthermore, people started placing cat figurines at the shrine, in honor of the cat’s vengeance. Before long, people started taking the cat figurines home and if their wishes came true, they would bring the figurine back together with another. There are about 10,000 cat figurines at the shrine now.
Recently, the shrine has started selling cat figurines, and most people buy one to take home.
These are the cute porcelain cat figurines.
They also have amulets at the shrine, so please come and visit Anan City, Tokushima Prefecture.
Address: 63 Fuke, Kamo, Anan City, Tokushima Prefecture
Setouchi Photo-writer: Kumiko Tobita
Kumiko Tobita I was born in 1973 and currently live in Tokushima Prefecture. I have been working at a publishing company in Tokushima for over 10 years now, and in addition to being the editor-in-chief of a monthly magazine, I also am involved in producing mooks, business pamphlets and websites. I always want to learn as fast as possible about delicious, fun, or new things. Feel free to ask if you have any questions about autobiographies, self-publication editing, or e-books. Since April 2015, I have been a part of an area development group, and my lifework involves regional resources and emigration measures.
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