Shonenji-Temple (Called a Cat Temple)
This is a temple of the Chion-in School of the Pure Land sect of Buddhism.
It was established in 1606 by the feudal lord of the Tsuchiura domain in presentday Ibaragi prefecture,Matsudira-izunokami-Nobuyoshi,for his mentor,the high priest Gakuyo.
During the period of the third head priest,the temple became distanced from the Matsudaira family and gradually impoverished.
According to the temple legend,this third priest loved cats.One night,his cat disguised itself as a beautiful princess and performed a dance happily despite the economic difficulty of the temple. The priest was enraged and chased away the cat.
Severaldays later,however,the cat appeared in his dream and told him that it had persuaded the Matsudaira family to support the temple again.
Thus,the cat repaid its obligation to the priest and the temple was revived.
Since then,the temple has greatly revered the soul of the cat. To commemorate the priesｔ’s cat,the old pine tree in front of the main building is shaped in the form of a cat lowering its body. For this reason,the temple came to be called Neko temple or Cat temple.
The temple holds memorial services for dead animals and a monument has been erected in the temple graveyard to console the souls of dead animals.
Introduction to Animal Memorial Services
Shonenji Temple has been fondly referred to as neko or cat temple thanks to the folk tale of a cat that brought about a reconstruction of the temple to requite the kindness of the temple’s chief priest during the Edo era. Since then, the temple has held memorial services for deceased animals in a cordially.
Many people have difficulty with the loss of an animal that had been brought up with great care as one of the family members.
Because they cannot speak their minds like humans, the family is smitten by remorse with profound sorrow.
To lend a helping hand to those who are grieving the loss of loved ones, I am devoted myself to be of any help to ease the feelings of sorrow.
Shonenji Temple is holding animal memorial service in spring (April) and autumn (October) every year, at this temple main hall.
Combined Memorial Grave ‘AITO’
Known as Aito, it is a grave tower newly constructed in 1998.
The tower’s round stone pagoda engraved with “love” in a kanji character represents our hope for the deceased animals rest in peace and bliss in the Paradise.
It is a beautiful cemetery featuring moss garden in the style of borrowed landscape.
It is a special hall where animal memorial services are held and our chief priest individually reads the sutras to commemorate the deceased animals with extreme courtesy. Also, pet’s ashes can be placed in a grave located in the hall so that visitors can clasp yours hand in prayer a visit to the remains of their pets on each occasion.
Individual graves may also be set up to attain Buddha-hood the death of a treasured family member. For more information about individual graves, please visit Shonenji Temple for consultation.
We built Cenotaph "friend" in this temple precinct so that everybody going and worship and longevity anytime could pray for health of your cat, dog and a pet animals.
You can come anytime if when opening the gate.
The Grateful Cat – Folk tale of a cat returning the favor
Shonenji Temple, also known as Neko Temple, was established by the temple’s Kaiki (founding patron) Shonin in 1606, the 11th year of Keicho era when the first chapter of Edo era began, when Matsudaira Nobuyoshi, who is Tokugawa Ieyasu’s adopted brother and the feudal lord of the Tsuchiura domain, made a convert to Buddhism. At that time, the temple was well flourished after receiving 300 koku of temple estate.
However, after the death of Matsudaira Nobuyoshi, the relationship between the temple and the Matsudaira family gradually became estranged. As time slipped away, temple lost 300 koku of temple estate and the appearance of the temple fell abruptly.
Grave of NOBUYOSHI Matsudaira
Here, let us talk about the story of the third-generation chief priest.
The priest had one adorable cat. For the priest who had lost allowances, he did not have any choice but to rely on the charity of religious mendicancy on a daily basis. However, the priest loved the cat so much and did not let go the cat even though he had to starve himself to share some of his food with the cat.
One day on the full moon night, the priest returned from a wandering mendicant with weary footsteps. When he passed through the temple gate and reached close to the main hall, he stood stock-still for a moment in astonishment. He saw a beautiful princess wearing elegant dress and dancing gracefully with a fan under the moonlight. On the shoji screen in the main hall, he saw a shadow of his loving cat in the back of the princess in a reflection under moonlight. When the priest saw the princess in disguise, he got angry and threw out the cat from the temple because there was no time for playing and dancing while he had to go through hard times getting some food.
A couple days after the cat disappeared, the priest’s cat appeared in his dream and told him “Tomorrow, samurai warriors will come to the temple. Give them a special reception and the temple will flourish again.” Next morning, the samurai warriors of the Matsudaira family visited the temple just like the cat said, and asked the priest to enshrine the deceased daughter in the temple. Since then, the temple was reinstated in its position with the Matsudaira family and the temple became more flourished more than before.
There is an old pine tree on a premise of the temple that is said to be planted by the priest to cherish his loving cat. It is also called neko matsu, or cat’s pine tree, and its wide branch extending 20 meters long in parallel with the ground is said to represent a cat lying down sideways.
Since then, Shonenji Temple has held memorial services in cordially to spirit of deceased animals.