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Kotohira Shrine has this unique affiliate shrine named "Kishima Shrine" (木島神社) which is the left half of this building. (The right-half shrine is Sarutahiko Shrine [猿田彦神社] for the god of transportation and directions.)Kishima Shrine is unique in Japan for these two koma-neko cat guardians. Shrines usually have koma-inu lion-dog guardians (to ward off evil spirits), but only this shrine in all of Japan has cat guardians instead.
Kishima Shrine has koma-neko cat guardians because silk farmers in the 19th century kept cats to protect their precious silkworms and cocoons from rats. Rats were a major problem for the silk industry.They ate the silk cocoons and worms. So cats saved the local silk industry.

The left cat is the mother (holding a kitten), and right cat is the father. Also respectively "A" and "un."

These koma-neko cat guardian statues were donated in 1832 by silk merchants and wholesalers such as the Tonomura family (外村家一族、岩滝のちりめん問屋、山家屋の小室利七) who were textile merchants from Higashi-Omi (Gokasho), Shiga Prefecture.狛猫
Koma-neko ema prayer tablet.
"Koma-neko Unique in Japan"
Back view of Koma-neko.
The left koma-neko cat is the mother (holding a kitten).
Koma-inu lion dog also protects the shrine.
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