Follow on Social Media. This annotated narrative is based on extant Tanuki art photos herein. It describes, both chronologically and thematically, the metamorphosis of the spook-beast Tanuki from a bad guy to good guy, from feared to beloved. It also debunks widespread misinformation about Tanuki. It is intended as a "primer" for students and teachers of art history and folklore. Traditional Tanuki.
Status in the Wild
It is indeed what it sounds like! Not to be mistaken with the image of a typical raccoon, the Tanuki is actually an unrelated animal with somewhat similar physical features. Legend has the Tanuki tagged as both mischievous and jovial, a shapeshifter that changes for reasons different than the sly fox, who changes its form in order to deceive humans. They all look similar: a hat, a big smile, a big belly, and a big scrotum.
You, my friend, are about to learn about one of the greatest aspects of Japanese culture. It's cute, fluffy, magical, and ridiculous. And it has giant testicles which it uses to perform amazing feats. Meet the tanuki. Tanukis and foxes are similar at first glance. They're both smallish, wild canines native to Japan.
Native to East Asia, raccoon dogs also known as a "tanuki" are frequently misunderstood animals that serve as a major cultural icon in Japan. Intrigued by their bushy fur, soft eyes and gentle disposition? We've put together a crash course that will get you up to speed on everything you need to know about these adorable creatures.