Otoyo Shrine is easy to walk past but that would be a big mistake. With an unassuming entrance at the south end of the Philosopher’s Path, this hidden place of worship is the perfect detour to escape the crowds at the big-name shrines of Nanzen-ji and Ginkaku-ji Temple.
While Komainu statues, regal lion-dogs who stand guard at the gates of shrines and temples, are a familiar sight throughout Japan, Otoyo Shrine has an altogether different security detail.
Here, small yet mighty mice stand guard at the entryway
The pair of stone-carved guardians, often decorated with fresh camellias behind their ears, act as the gatekeepers of the shrine that is believed to house the god of matchmaking.
The ancient story goes that the god of marriage, Okuninushi, fell in love with a Princess in another world. But another god, Susanoo, became jealous and tried to trap Okuninushi in a fire. A plucky mouse helped him to escape and finally he and the Princess could marry. #relationshipgoals
Hopefully you’re love life isn’t quite so dramatic but you can still ask the mice for blessings in relationships, childbirth and child-rearing.
Notice how one mouse holds a scroll symbolic of academic learning, while the other hoists a big sake bottle said to represent fertility and longevity (obviously).
The animals are also joined by a quirky mix of Chinese Zodiac figurines (in addition to a curiously placed Mickey Mouse) playfully scattered throughout the grounds.