Cat emas, cat fortune slips, and cat buddhas…!? The “Cat Temple” has various cat-related things all over the temple grounds. / Unrinji Temple (Hagi-shi, Yamaguchi)

“Unrinji Temple” a.k.a. “Cat Temple” is located in a mountain province in the suburbs of Hagi City.

We heard the news that there is a popular temple which is commonly known as “Cat Temple” in the suburbs of Hagi City in Yamaguchi Prefecture.
And we visited that temple – its official name being “Seigetsu-san Unrinji Temple.”

Unrinji Temple is located in a mountain village, and it is 25-kilometers away from the city of Hagi.
We already found some big wooden cat sculptures on either side of the entrance to the temple.

At the main gate, here they are.
Big “Maneki-neko,” the beckoning cats which are believed to bring good fortune, are standing there to welcome you.
Now I know that the rumor is true.

Wow, there are so many cat statues in front of the main hall…!
Yes, we totally understand why people call this temple “Cat Temple.”
What else could it be named?

Most of the wooden sculptures in Unrinji Temple have been made by the world-famous chainsaw artist, Takao Hayashi.

A Cat Kannon Bodhisattva made of Hagi pottery is enclosed in the “Shofuku-do” (The Hall Which Brings Happiness).
This cute building is located just before the main hall.

You can find so many cute or funny cats at the entrance of the main hall.

There are so many “cat ema (votive tablets)” which are packed closely and lined up on the ceiling.
Don’t be surprised at the cat sculpture pawing a straw sandal on the beam.

Why “Unrinji Temple” became “Cat Temple”?

Actually, Unrinji Temple was a branch temple of “Tenjuin Temple” which is well known for a cat legend related to the Mori clan. (Mori was a feudal lord in Hagi during the Edo period.)
The legend says that one of the vassals of the Mori clan took his own life after the death of the feudal lord, and his cat also took its own life.

The local mascot character “Hagi-nyan” was created from this story.
And also, Unrinji Temple became the Cat Temple.

A cat here, another cat there…, the inside of the main hall is also full of cats!

The main hall of Unrinji Temple is open, and people are free to go inside.

How many cats are you going to find in the main hall…?
Please look in every nook and corner.
It is already becoming a search for cats, not a visit to the temple for praying…!

This statue sitting in the center of the main hall, close to the principal Buddhist statue, is a statue you can touch and stroke.
It is said that if you pat the part of the statue’s body which corresponds to the same part you are having trouble with, while praying to “get well,” then your wish will come true.

In this room deeper inside of the main hall, there is a “cat room” where you can pray using various cat goods.

A picture of yourself lying next to a big “sleeping cat” would make a good memorial shot!

This is the cat deity, and it can be a fortune-teller of compatibility.
If you are a couple, you both pull its whiskers from either side.
If the whiskers are connected, you have an affinity for each other.
If they don’t, then try one more time.
If you failed again, then just pray to the deity for your relationship!
Don’t worry, everything is going to be alright!

This room is like a “cat museum!”
So many kinds of objects, toys, and mascots related to cats are neatly displayed.

The posters on the wall are also for historical movies related to cats.

These cartoons and comics piled in the shelves are also stories about cats – sometimes a cat is a main focus of the stories, or at least a part of the stories.

A cup of tea is served in the next room, which is a rest corner.

Cat Temple original items and “cat fortune slips” are available!

Cat Temple original goods and souvenirs are sold at the temple.

The one of the most popular items is the “cat fortune slip.”
This is a written fortune with a cute cat figurine, and there are 7 kinds of them.
Maybe you will want to have all kinds of cats for a blessing…?

“Cat ema” (votive tablet) is also one of the favorites, as can be seen on the ceiling of the entrance of the main hall.
You draw your own cat’s face on the tablet to make your original ema.
Write your wish on the back of the tablet, and may your wish come true…!

These are some completed ema!
Wow, each one is so cute and brimming with originality!

Don’t miss some more cats when you are on your way out of the temple.
Actually, there are more than 700 cats on the temple grounds…!
This place can be called a “sacred place for cat lovers,” and we assume that you will fully enjoy your time here!

Seigetsu-san Unrinji (Cat Temple)
address/2489, Kibekami, Hagi-shi, Yamaguchi
Admission fee/Free
Parking lot/Available (free)

Photographs and text by Hironobu Matsuoka

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Written by

Hironobu Matsuoka

Hironobu Matsuoka

Hironobu Matsuoka / Photo-writer Born in 1974 in Nishinomiya, Hyogo Prefecture, and currently living there, Hironobu is the president of Mediapolis Inc. "I travel around the country in Solar King, an eco-camping car that has a solar power generator, and film the beautiful scenery of Japan in high-definition. I want to move around the country as much as possible and leave behind videos of precious Japanese nature and scenery for future generations to enjoy. Although I travel all over the country, I love my home area of Setouchi." 'Healing Japan TV' - Traveling virtually around the country through 'healing videos'.


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