Tuesday, September 1, 2009
Leif at Gotokuji Temple in Setagaya Ward, Tokyo, Japan - June 1981 - Age 6
One of the folk art figurines seen most often in Japanese and even Chinese restaurants and shops is the "Maneki Neko," or "Beckoning Cat." Leif and I both loved cats and I was interested in the story and origin of these figures. I found out that there was a temple in western Tokyo which was reported to be the origin of the beckoning cats, which are lucky figures because they are beckoning in luck, customers, or money. Leif and I took a trip to that temple, Gotokuji, on the train. Of course he had to take along a favorite toy or two and play in the dirt while we were there. (I wouldn't be surprised if Darren can even identify the one in the photos.)
Leif also managed to climb down into the concrete cylinder constructed under the huge temple bell, a sounding chamber, I believe, and rang the bell with the large log as well.
The grounds were full of excellent dry dirt and he made the most of it. By the time I was ready to go home, he was quite full of dirt and so were his shoes and his toys. I see that in this photo he was wearing athletic shoes that fastened with Velcro straps. They were very popular at that time and certainly a lot easier than tying shoes, but the noise they made when the kids ripped the straps off the shoe to open them was awful.
I photographed the temple and grounds for an article I later wrote for "Highlights for Children" magazine about the temple and the Maneki Neko story, and I brought several of the beckoning cats back from Japan. Whether these Japanese good luck charms had anything to do with it or not, I have had a lot of good fortune in my life. I wish Leif had had an equal measure!
In one photo, Leif is in front of a small sort of shrine holding rows of the Maneki Neko figures. These are purportedly ones that brought their owners good fortune and the owners then donated them to the temple. A shop at the temple sells the figurines, but they can be purchased in many, many other places, including online these days.
Leif was six years old when we took that train trip and these photos. We had a good time that day.