A visit to Takashima
In Takashima, an island located three kilometers off Karatsu City in Saga Prefecture, there is a place called “Hoto Shrine,” which literally means, “Win-a-Treasure Shrine.”
Every year, some 200,000 people visit the shrine, and the place is a popular power spot for fans who come to wish themselves good luck in the lotteries. Visiting certain cat on the Island is said to increase your chances of winning.
Once you land in Takashima and start off on a pleasant walk along the road approaching the shrine, you will soon arrive at an interesting shop. In front of the shop, you’ll see well-mannered cats sitting in a row. It will be hard for you not to stop by.
“Okay! This one is called Fuku-chan, and she prays!” the 68-year-old Ikie Nozaki said cheerfully, as she promoted good-luck lottery charms. She is the owner of the shop, Hoto Daikoku-ya Nozaki liquor store.
“Fortunately, we are very popular. We get a huge crowd in front of the store on days when lottery tickets are released,” she said.
The 12-year-old female cat, Fuku-chan, started becoming popular around 10 years ago, when a man hit the jackpot after stroking her at the shop. Since then, word of the good-luck cat spread through social media. Now, not only lottery fans, but also cat lovers, visit this shop.
People smile and cheer as Fuku-chan stands up and prays toward the Hoto golden bags, which are used to hold the purchased lottery tickets. It is amazing how she can attract such a huge crowd.
Fuku-chan has a proven track record. There are now seven cats in total, which Nozaki calls the “Fuku-chan family.” According to her, thanks to the cats, the total amount of money shop visitors have won in the lotteries could amount to around 2.2 billion yen, and that was just the sum of winnings that had been reported. Fuku-chan is what we might call a real-life maneki-neko.
The way Fuku-chan receives snacks from Nozaki—by cupping them carefully with both of her paws—somehow looked very adorable to me. Even during the interview, Nozaki expressed her affection for Fuku-chan time and again. “Sweet girl, Fuku-chan,” she said repeatedly.
Sharing the Luck
She has gotten offers from people who want the kittens every time Fuku-chan gives birth. Lottery shops in Gunma and Aichi prefectures have adopted several kittens from Nozaki. And the surprising thing is that there have already been lottery winners from those shops!
Fifty-year-old Midori Kitazume lives in Chichibu City in Saitama Prefecture, but was visiting her home town on vacation. “I came with my mother and my daughters. This place is close to my parents’ home, and I’ve always wanted to come here. The cats, they are really cute,” she said.
Taking photos of Fuku-chan in prayer brought out some kind of false confidence in me as well, as I began to feel that I, too, was going to win the lottery.
Meanwhile, the cats seem to be enjoying their life of freedom on the island, as if to say, “That’s none of my business,” while being surrounded by the warmth of worshipers around them.
Shuji Ozaki is a photojournalist at the Sankei Shimbun Photojournalism Department.
(Click here to read the original article in Japanese.)