May 26, 2019
Tokyo- A Tokyo tram featuring images of white "manekineko" beckoning cats on its exterior is drawing keen attention, including among Instagram users.
The Instagrammable two-car tram is operated on Tokyu Corp.'s 5.0-kilometer Setagaya Line, which connects Sangen-jaya and Shimo-takaido stations in Setagaya Ward in the Japanese capital.
With only one such lucky cat train on the line and its operating schedule changing from day to day, an Instagrammer said, "I would be lucky if I ride it," while another commented, "It's a good omen."
According to the company, the special tram is being operated as a project undertaken jointly with Gotokuji, a Buddhist temple located near the Setagaya Line tracks, to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the line and revitalize surrounding areas. Manekineko is said to have originated at the temple.
The manekineko tram made a comeback after it was operated between September 2017 and September 2018 to mark the 110th year of the Tamagawa Line, the Setagaya Line's predecessor, which was scrapped in 1969.
An old story says that a white cat at Gotokuji beckoned Ii Naotaka, a feudal lord in the 17th century during the Edo period, when he passed by the temple during a falconry trip.
As he entered the temple and took a rest there, Ii, who served Tokugawa Hidetada, Tokugawa Iemitsu and Tokugawa Ietsuna, the second, third and fourth shogun of the Tokugawa shogunate, respectively, escaped a violent thunderstorm. Following the incident, Ii adopted the teachings of the temple, according to Gotokuji.
Based on the story, cats have been worshipped at the temple as a symbol of good luck.
According to Tokyu, the manekineko tram is popular especially among children and foreigners.
The company said that the number of Setagaya Line passengers increased by over 250,000 year on year during the period when the special tram was in operation the previous time.
A Tokyu official in charge said that the manekineko tram appears more cat-like than the previous time, as images of cat ears have been added to the front part of both cars.
"We want many people to enjoy riding the manekineko tram," the official added. Jiji Press
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