Quest For Japan Logo-Ver7

Are you okay, Tanuki? – The Japanese Raccoon Dog in Legends and Popular Culture 2

Date Published: Last Update:2015/05/18 Animal, Pop Culture & OTAKU, Traditional Culture , , ,

Last time, we featured how the tanuki is similar to the kitsune in terms of how they are portrayed in Japanese legends and myths. In this post, we will talk about how the tanuki is depicted in modern Japan and in popular culture.

When you stroll around Japan, you will notice that restaurants and pubs, called izakaya in Japanese, have statues of tanuki at the entrance. Store owners believed that they bring good luck to their business. The tanuki which is depicted as mischievous and a trickster in legends is now a bringer of good luck.

3564884420_553b9b55f9_z

The tanuki statue is usually seen outside restaurants and bars (izakaya) in Japan. (Photo by Tristan Ferne on Flickr)

The Eight Virtues/Traits of the Tanuki

The tanuki has eight traits/virtues that is believed to bring good fortune. These are:

  • Hat – it signifies the readiness of the tanuki. It is ready whether the weather will be good or bad. In some statues, the tanuki brings umbrella instead of a straw hat.
  • Big rounded eyes – symbolizes awareness of environment and proper understanding of a situation. It helps the tanuki to make good and sound decisions. Also, it makes the tanuki look cuter.
  • Sake (rice wine) bottle – it symbolizes the virtue of gratitude and appreciation.
  • Big tail – signifies steadiness and unflinching determination. As some of real-life animals use their tails as a way to balance as they stand and walk, the tail of the tanuki also signifies balance, upright efforts, and perseverance, to not falter and attain one’s own goal.
  • Over-sized scrotum – symbolizes money and wealth. In Japanese, the scrotum is called 金玉袋 (kintamabukuro) which literally translates to a sack of gold balls. The size of their scrotum is exaggerated to symbolize expanding wealth. Though it may give a wrong idea to some people, but the over-sized scrotum has nothing to do with sexual indulgences of the tanuki or the nature of the business where it the tanuki is displayed.
  • Promissory note – symbolizes honesty and sincerity. In legends, the tanuki is known as a mischievous being, tricking others to make them look like a fool. The promissory note the tanuki brings makes the tanuki trustworthy and wants to gain the trust and confidence of others.
  • Big belly – is the virtue of level-headedness. It also symbolizes composure, boldness and calm decisiveness.
  • Friendly smile – signifies kindness and graciousness. Who would enter a bar anyway with a grumpy statue outside?

Shiga Prefecture, Home of the Tanuki Statues

Most of the statues of the tanuki across Japan are Shigaraki ware and is made in Shigaraki, Shiga Prefecture. This style of pottery is associated with the tanuki statues since the late 1930’s. It was credited to Tetsuzō Fujiwara, a potter who moved to Shiga Prefecture in that decade and made tanuki statues. He made such fine tanuki statues that he was even admired the emperor of that time, Emperor Hirohito.

Tanuki in Popular Culture

In popular culture, the tanuki is one of those usually deformed animals (chibi) that symbolizes cuteness in manga and anime. In the manga/anime Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun, a comedy manga about a manga writer, it is a running gag about how a certain manga editor loves to put a tanuki in every page of the manga that it becomes too annoying. In the popular series, One Piece, a character named Chopper is always mistaken as a tanuki even though he is a reindeer due to its odd appearance (reindeer in Japanese is called a tonakai).

chopper

Chopper from One Piece is a reindeer (tonakai) but is usually mistaken as a tanuki. Photo is taken during the One Piece Grand Arena Tour

What do you know about the tanuki? Share it with us in the comments!

References:

1. Tanuki Japanese Artwork. A-Z Photo Dictionary Japanese Buddhist Statuary.

2. Japanese Racoon Dog. Wikipedia.

The following two tabs change content below.

Sponsored Links

  • Pocket
  • 1 follow us in feedly

Related Article/s:

Wrong kunoich

We are ninjas: The word “ninja”

When I was a child, “ninja” was not known worldwide like today. Of course it was very popular in Japan, but famous ninja anime / manga (“Sasuke” and “Kamui” by Sanpei Shirato were probably the best-known at that time) were for rather adults than kids to compare with the present “Nintama Rantarou” or “Naruto”, although […]

Read Article

kanji of the year

税 (Zei) – 2014 Kanji of the Year

Every year since 1995, the Japanese Kanji Proficiency Society (財団法人日本漢字能力検定協会, Zaidanhōjin Nihon Kanji Nōryoku Kentei Kyōkai), chooses a Kanji of the Year (今年の漢字, Kotoshi no Kanji). The selection is done through national ballot. The character with the most votes, usually related to events happened that year, is announced in a ceremony on December 12 (漢字の日, […]

Read Article

A-InBox_2

Yu-Gi-Oh! – 15th anniversary – Kingdom of the dueler –

I’m showing you the latest card before introducing “Kingdom of the dueler edition”. V Jump November 2014 promotional card Beast-Eyes Pendulum Dragon Card descriptions 1 DARK Dragon-Type monster + 1 Beast-Type monster Must be Fusion Summoned, or Special Summoned (from your Extra Deck) by Tributing the above cards you control (You do not use “Polymerization”), and cannot be […]

Read Article

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Okayama Castle: A unique blend of the old and the new

Okayama Castle they say is one of the must see places here in Okayama City, Japan. Well if you have been around cities here a number of them have their own castle. I believe there are about hundreds of them scattered all over Japan. But what then sets this castle apart from the rest of […]

Read Article

Honguu of the Konpira Shrine

Due south: Konpira Shrine in Kagawa – Part 3 –

Konpira in Kagawa (3) Konpira Shrine (3) [Shoin (Library building)] To reach here, you must walk up nearly 500 steps in total. The original meaning of “shoin” was a room used as a sitting room as well as a library of the master, but since around 1600, it has referred to a whole building. This […]

Read Article

Swordsmith in Osafune

Osafune in Okayama: The land of Japanese sword – Part 1 –

Bizen country, its main area was southern part of the present Okayama prefecture, was very famous for swordsmithing. It’s also famous for pottery called “Bizen-yaki”, but in this post, I’m going to focus on swordsmithing only.   Swordsmiths in Bizen There were a great number of swordsmiths in Bizen. According to several websites, it seems […]

Read Article

vacation

Golden Week – Furikae Kyūjitsu and Golden Week History

Today is the last day of the Golden Week this year in Japan. For this year, this day has no particular celebration or holiday. Today is just a Compensation/Substitute Holiday (振替休日 Furikae Kyūjitsu) that is observed when any of the Golden Week holidays fall on Sunday. Past Observances of Furikae Kyūjitsu Furikae Kyūjitsu of the […]

Read Article

Go

Let’s Play “Go”! – The Go Board Game in Modern Times and Popular Culture

The Go board game became popular not only in Asia but also in other countries. It also spawned many work of art and fictions. The following two tabs change content below.BioLatest Posts harorudo Latest posts by harorudo (see all) Kaomoji: Expressing Emotions Through Text 2 – June 3, 2015 Kaomoji: Expressing Emotions Through Text – […]

Read Article

208757307_bc0c31977d_z

Japanese Summer – A Season of Fireworks and Dance Festivals 2

In our previous post, we featured fireworks as one of the things you usually associate to a Japanese summer. But summer is not only about fireworks, it also means commemorating one’s dead ancestors and summer dance festivals. Obon In Buddhism, they believe that the spirits of their ancestors visit their living relatives yearly and it […]

Read Article

Ninja

We are ninjas: What ninja is and the origin

What is “ninja”? From “Mansenshuukai” a.k.a. “Bansenshuukai” (a famous ninjutsu-sho, a book about ninja’s tricks), an excellent ninja is described as one who makes a great success but; Makes no sound Has no odor Remains nameless Never win a name for himself / herself Makes outstanding achievements just like creating this world About the expression […]

Read Article

Sponsored Links

Leave a Reply

Sponsored Links

  • Google+
    InstagramInstagram
PAGE TOP ↑