Mikii Inari Jinja (美喜井稲荷神社) is a delightfully obscure shrine that’s hidden between tall buildings in Akasaka. It has a cat statue instead of Inari’s usual foxes, and wooden carvings of a cat playing with a bird and another cat apparently eating a magatama, which symbolizes the human soul.
Try as I might, I couldn’t find a reliable explanation. I read that there used to be a house that took care of stray cats, but the house burned down. I also read that the owner had a cat called Mikii-chan, but the cat didn’t die in the fire, so after the cat’s death, a shrine was erected.
Let’s not forget this sign at the shrine: この神さまにお願いする方は蛸を召し上がらぬこと。この神さまを信仰される方はなにも心配いりません。Those who pray to this god do not (or shall not; it’s old Japanese) eat octopus. Those who believe in this god don’t have to worry about a damn thing.
I paraphrase with considerable poetic licence, but that’s the gist of it.
It was at this point that I gave up. Octopus? What does octopus have to do with cats?! “Cats!” I muttered to myself. “Who understands cats? It’s pointless. Just worship them.”
PS: I did ascertain that cats should not eat raw seafood, because it can cause a thiamine deficiency, which can cause neurological problems, but I still can’t explain the whence, whither and wherefore of this shrine.