A tanuki is a raccoon dog, an Asian animal that, although it looks like a raccoon, is actually a member of the dog and wolf family. They’re very popular in Japanese folklore, and were once believed to be sake-drinking, mischievious, shape-shifting tricksters with a big sexual appetite. The tanuki in this photo are at the Awashima-jinja, a shrine for unwanted dolls.



Over 90 percent of the tanuki statues that you see in Japan get “castrated”, or their scrotums get turned into something that makes it look like they’re sitting on a rock, so I was surprised to come across this statue that shows the tanuki’s traditional appearance.

Everything you ever wanted to know about tanuki can be found here at  Mark Schumacher’s excellent Buddhism & Shintoism in Japan A to Z Photo Dictionary.

There’s also a very nice post on Pink Tentacle about Shigaraki, the tanuki capital of Japan, with a description of the “Tanuki’s day off” when all the tanuki are given sleeping masks or put in poses as if they’re playing games or having picnics.

If you have never seen the infamous Japanese tanuki commercial, be sure to click here to see what may well be the most bizarre advertisement ever made.

0 replies
  1. toranosuke
    toranosuke says:

    This is great! I had no idea such a shrine existed. If I happen to find myself in Wakayama, I’ll be sure to check it out. Thanks so much for sharing!

  2. toonleap
    toonleap says:

    It depends on the point of view.

    In google, if you type “the most weird japan ads” or the “most bizarre japan ads” There are a couple of those. There is one featuring a goth-loli-ish model in a dream sequel, where she follows a black cat through a conceptual uterus only to be gang raped via interpretative dance by a bunch of men in black Hello Kitty S&M attire. It is the first entry in Google… 🙂 …”The Most Bizarre Hello Kitty Ad You Will Ever Watch”

    I think the Tanuki one is not the most bizarre but probably the most naughty…but that´s just my opinion… 😉

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  1. […] in Wakayama Prefecture is home to thousands of these Maneki Neko (beckoning cats), as well as raccoon dogs, hina dolls, and phallic symbols, unwanted items that their owners can’t bear to throw out, […]

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