Often-overlooked temple in one of Japan’s most best sightseeing towns was inspired by the story of a deeply devoted samurai cat.
Located along the northern coast of Yamaguchi Prefecture, the town of Hagi boasts a number of cultural sites. Two of the most famous are Tokoji and Daishoin Temples, where the graves of the region’s daimyo (samurai lords) are located, but there’s another, less-famous temple in Hagi that’s also worth a visit.
Unrinji Temple is about 30 minutes away from Hagi’s city center, and though its name means “clouded forest temple,” it’s also known as the “cat temple.”
Sure enough, as soon as you step up to Unrinji’s gate, you’re greeted by a group of carved wooden at statues, in both traditionally artistic and modernly cute styles. There’s even a large sign reminding visitors that “A world which throws out its cats is a world that will perish.”
In total, there are more than 600 cat statues on the temple grounds and within its main hall. The stand-outs include feline versions of the “speak no evil, hear no evil, see no evil” monkeys seen elsewhere in Japan…
…and a serene cat Buddha.
So why does Unrinji have such a soft spot for cats? According to legend, several centuries ago a prominent samurai who lived in the area passed away. The samurai’s beloved pet cat was