Cats have a habit of hanging out wherever they want to, but at this shrine felines are honored guests.

Some Shinto shrines, like Tokyo’s Meiji Shrine, sit on expansive plots of land where visitors are welcome to stroll about. Others, though, are smaller and simpler, with little more than a humble torii gate and a compact altar were worshippers can make offerings.

Miyori Daimyojin, a shrine in the town of Ishinomaki, Miyagi Prefecture, is very much in the latter category. As a matter of fact, there’s actually a fence around the shrine that prevents people from moving more than a few steps inside the gate…but that didn’t stop one feline visitor from heading farther into the shrine grounds and making itself very much at home, as shown in this photo from Japanese Twitter user @ttt_zegu952.

This isn’t just another example of cats thinking the whole world belongs to them, though, as this feline is actually on pretty solid ground in a historical/cultural context. See, Miyori Daimyojin is also called “Neko Jinja,” meaning “the Cat Shrine.” The shrine is located on the island of Tashirojima, where fishing was traditionally the way most people made a living. At some point in the island’s history, fishermen began to believe that happy cats were an omen of a good catch for the day, and so it became a custom among the local residents to treat the creatures as kindly as possible.

But even with good intentions, accidents can happen. One day a fisherman was splitting a stone in order to make an anchor for his boat, and part of the rock that chipped off struck a nearby cat, killing it. The Cat Shrine was built to help the animal rest in peace, and even in the modern era you can regularly find cats hanging out there like they own the place.

Making the scenes extra cute is the fact that many worshippers also leave behind manekineko/”beckoning cats,” cat-shaped figurines said to draw good luck.

▼ Even the Google Streetview images for the shrine feature cats.

@ttt_zegu952 originally snapped the photo of a cat in the shrine two years ago, when the animal had taken shelter under the eaves of the collection box during the rain shower. A recent reposting of the picture has brought forth a new wave of online reactions, such as:

“Smart kitty.”
“It looks so self-assured.”
“It looks like it’s making friends with all the maneki neko.”
“I think if you said a prayer when a cat is sitting there, the gods will surely answer it.”

So if your interests include both traditional culture and cute cats, consider making a side trip to Tashirojima if you’re ever in Miyagi. Don’t worry if your itinerary is limited to Tokyo, though, since it’s got a cat temple.

Sources: Twitter/@ttt_zegu952 via IT Media, Gogo Miyagi
Top image: Twitter/@ttt_zegu952
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