A tanuki is a real animal and is like a cross between a raccoon and a dog. This animal has been depicted in Japanese folklore since the 12th century. Tanuki statues are found everywhere around Japan, especially outside restaurants and bars, where the Tanuki invites people in to drink and eat. The Tanuki usually has a huge stomach, gigantic testicles, a flask of sake, a promissory note, and a straw hat. Some tanuki may be shown with their testicles flung over their backs and being used as a drum. We were lucky enough in Hiroshima to find one that pees!
There are countless tales about the mischievous Tanuki. It is said this guy can transform into any living or inanimate shape and play tricks on people. I have heard these statues are for fertility and fortune as well. The bigger the testicles the more fertile or rich you will be. Upon some research, I found a common schoolyard song that is sung to the tune of Shall We Gather at the River about this well-endowed creature.
- Tan Tan Tanuki no kintama wa,
- Kaze mo nai no ni,
- Bura bura
These statues seemed to have evolved over the years. Last week I saw ones wearing Hanshin Tigers (A local pro baseball team) clothes, females (obviously lacking the male parts), and even pastel colored ones. The tanuki's are quite ugly. However, I do think we will take a small one home for the yard. It will make a great conversation piece.