Quest For Japan Logo-Ver7

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

Date Published: Last Update:2015/05/15 Animal, Traditional Culture , , ,

Last time, we talked about the sly kitsune or the Japanese fox. In this post, we will feature another animal that is popular in Japanese legends and myths and just like the kitsune, is sometimes depicted as a trickster, the tanuki or the Japanese raccoon dog.

Tanuki, Not Your Ordinary Raccoon

Though they look like raccoons, the Japanese raccoon dog or known as tanuki(狸) in Japanese, scientifically speaking, belongs to the family Nyctereutes which is known as the ancestors of Canidae or the family of dogs, wolves, and foxes. Generally, the raccoon dog belongs to procyonoides species but some scientists believe that the Japanese raccoon dog particularly belongs to the subspecies viverrinus.

real life tanuki

The tanuki looks like a raccoon but it actually belongs to the same family as dogs, wolves and foxes. (Photo by Guilhem Vellut on Flickr)

Comparing the Tanuki and Kitsune

The tanuki has been seen in Japanese legends and myths since a long time ago. The tanuki in myths and legends is often called the bake-danuki(化け狸) and is considered as a yōkai or a supernatural being. Unlike the kitsune, which legends can be traced back that it is from China, the legends of tanuki is unique to Japan. The tanuki’s known powers and abilities are similar to that of the kitsune’s: shapeshifting, conjuring, and disguise. The table below shows the similarities and differences of that of the tanuki and the kitsune.

Description/Ability

Kitsune Tanuki

Can possess people

Haunts houses, locations

Can shift into a human and inanimate objects

Often assumes form of a beautiful woman

Gains power as it ages

Both good and bad

Dogs are mortal enemies

Holds/possesses jewel

Needs object to transform

Nocturnal

Howling is bad omen

Turns pebbles into gold, turns dung into food

Sees future

Gains tail as it ages

Divine connection

Can conjure fire and lights

Table from TANUKI in Japanese Artwork

The kitsune loves to shape-shift into a living being, usually a human but the tanuki loves to shape-shift into inanimate objects. Also, the reason for shape-shifting for the kitsune and tanuki is different. While the kitsune disguises their selves as humans to tempt humans and give them what they want, the tanuki shape-shifts to fool people and make them look stupid.

Legends of the tanuki are told in different places in Japan but the most popular among them are Danzaburou-danuki of Niigata Prefecture, Shibaemon-tanuki of Hyōgo Prefecture, and Yashima no Hage-tanuki of Kagawa Prefecture. Though these stories may seem out-of-this-world, some are actually exaggerated stories of actual people and happenings.

In the next post, we will feature how the tanuki is portrayed in modern and popular culture.

The following two tabs change content below.

Sponsored Links

  • Pocket
  • 1 follow us in feedly

Related Article/s:

furisode

Kimono – Traditional Japanese Clothing

As someone who is not from Japan, when I think of a Japanese traditional garment, I always think of a kimono. We usually see on media as worn by Japanese women during special occasions but did you know that the kimono is not as simple as it looks like? Or did you know that there […]

Read Article

Zentsuu-ji 08

Due South : Zentsuu-ji, Kagawa – Quick Shikoku Pilgrimage

Mini hachi-jyuu-hachi kasho meguri (Quick circuit for 88 sacred places) Behind the temple, there is a small mountain called “Koushiki-zan” (lit. “Mt. Scent-colour”). There is a path encircling the mountain, which is about 1.6 km (approx. 1 mile) long. This is a very short version of the well-known pilgrimage in Japan : “(Shikoku) Hachi-jyuu-hachi kasho […]

Read Article

nengajo

New Year Holidays in Japan: Nengajou

For some other parts of the world, Christmas is the time for sending holiday greetings through postcards and mail. It is not much like that in Japan though. The Japanese receive holiday greeting cards in New Year’s Day (January 1), thus called Nengajou or the New Year’s Card. The New Year’s Card or Nengajou The […]

Read Article

midori no hi

Golden Week – Constitution Memorial Day and Greenery Day

Continuing our feature about Japan’s Golden Week, this post will feature the second and third holidays, the Constitution Memorial Day and Greenery Day. Constitution Memorial Day The Constitution Memorial Day, or Kenpō Kinenbi (憲法記念日) as it is known in Japan, is a national holiday in Japan that is celebrated every May 3. The date signifies […]

Read Article

DSCN3996

Kotoba Asobi – Goroawase 2

In our last kotoba asobi post, we learned about goroawase or substituting number pronunciations to make a new word or phrase. Goroawase is used as a mnemonic technique, especially in the memorization of numbers such as dates in history, scientific constants, and phone numbers. Goroawase as mnemonics Mnemonics are used to aid memorization of certain […]

Read Article

School in Takahashi

Takahashi in Okayama, Japan -Part 2-

The Bicchuu Matsuyama Castle in Takahashi city(2) When I reached the top, I found a tea server. “Bicchuu Uji-cha”, a local tea was served and it was free. “Thank god, I can cool my throat”, I thought, but surprisingly it was steaming hot! I didn’t want to waste my tea, so I waited until it […]

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

yomifuda

Karuta: Traditional Japanese Playing Cards – More Karuta Variations and Karuta in Popular Culture

In our previous post about the Japanese traditional card game karuta, we listed some of popular karuta variations. In this post, we will post more of these karuta variations and karuta in popular culture. The following two tabs change content below.BioLatest Posts harorudo Latest posts by harorudo (see all) Kaomoji: Expressing Emotions Through Text 2 – […]

Read Article

bunkasai

Culture Day or Bunka no Hi

As what we know from our previous posts about holidays in Japan, almost every month in Japan has a national holiday. November is not an exception of that. There are two holidays for the month of November and those are the Culture Day or 文化の日 (Bunka no Hi) on November 3 and Labor Thanksgiving Day […]

Read Article

Family crest of the Tokugawa

Mystery tour : Muramasa , a cursed blade – Part 2 –

Muramasa (2) Blessed swords for hostile forces against Tokugawa If “Muramasa” blades really harm the Tokugawa, they are very fortunate weapons for enemies. Nobushige Sanada (1567 – 1615), much more commonly known as Yukimura Sanada, who was against the Tokugawa, is said that he carried “Muramasa” sword(s) with him. There is also a legend that […]

Read Article

Sponsored Links

Leave a Reply

Sponsored Links

  • Google+
    InstagramInstagram
PAGE TOP ↑