At Ekoin temple in Ryogoku, there are many famous monuments, one of them are memorials for Mereki great fire (1657) or Kanto earthquake (1923). Hayagriva (Bato Kannon, horse head Kannon) was made for the memorial service of 4th Shogun Ietsuna Tokugawa’s favorite horse. Addition that, cat, chinese dogs, seals(?!), birds, and cats and dogs stone memorials were built. They have been folding a mass for many kinds of animals since Edo period, even now there are many pet owners visit to pray for their pet’s soul.
The most popular thing of this temple may be the tomb of Nezumi Kozo (Nezumi means mouse, Kozo is boy or bantling), whose real name was Jirokichi (1797-1832), a famous chivalrous thief in the Edo period. He was said to steal so much money from Samurai Daimyo mansions about over 120 times, and could get 30,000 ryō money, and then gave them poor people as Robin Hood. Finally he caught and was beheaded after being dragged around Edo town, at that time Edo citizen bursted their way to see Nezumi Kozo because he was a hero for anti-authority for them. After his death, he became a hero of storytelling, kabuki theater and many novels. In fact, we cannot certify that he gave money to poor, some scholars said he might use them for wine, woman, and dice. But he has been popular among people stil now.
On the side of Nezumi Kozo’s tomb, there is another memorial, it was for a cat, called “Neko duka” built in 1816. They have a well-known story: one fish dealer had got sick to go to bed for a long time, and naturally he had pinched for money. One day, a cat, lived with Mr. Tokita and fish seller had given foods this cat whenever he had visited Tokita, held two gold money to his house. He spent it to buy food and to see the doctor, and got well soon. Though he went to Tokita’s house, he couldn’t see that cat. Tokita’s family said, “Bad cat had stolen money, so we killed”. He was so astonished and mourned that he received a body and made its memorial at Ekoin temple. This story is one of animals repayment of kindness. They said “Neko ni Koban” (Cat has a gold money) for celebration of cat’s returning a favor. But this sentence meaning changed gradually from “requital of kindness” to proverb of “Casting pearls before swine”. I think original story is really good, but today’s proverb “Neko ni Koban” (Cat has gold money = Cat doesn’t need money) is sorry for this cat!