Saturday, December 25, 2010

Lucky Tanuki san

In Japan, it is common to see some or the other kind of lucky charm in front of business establishments primarily, shops and restaurants. Many Japanese people believe that certain animals bring good fortune and as such they place certain objects resembling these animals at the entrance of their business place.

I have written about the “Maneki neko” – the beckoning cat in an earlier post. The other popular animal is the “Tanuki”. Tanuki is the Japanese raccoon dog.

Many Tanuki statues can be found outside shops and restaurants all over Japan. This particular picture was taken during our recent trip to Kyoto. These Tanuki statues usually have a big belly and somewhat disproportionate body parts. They are shown wearing turtle shell hats and carrying a promissory note (sometimes replaced by an empty purse) in one hand while the other hand holds a sake bottle.

This animal is supposed to bring good fortune to business because of its 8 special traits:
1.      The big belly signifies bold and calm decisionmaking,
2.      The promissory note represents the trust and confidence
3.      The bottle of sake represents Virtue!
4.      The big tail represents steadiness and strength
5.      Oversized testicles symbolize financial luck!!
6.      Big eyes symbolize the capability to judge the environment and making good decisions
7.      The turtle shell hat symbolizes readiness and protection against bad weather (meaning bad times)
8.      The friendly smile which supposedly means friendly attitude towards customers.

The disproportionate size of the belly, tail, eyes and testicles give the “Tanuki” a comical and humorous appearance. The Japanese folklore has many stories related to the Tanuki. The tanuki is generally reputed to be mischievous and funny and at the same time gullible and absentminded.


  1. Hello, we just bought our first Tanuki from a local merchant that we've been patronizing to get Japanese candies and toys since 2000's. We love our Tanuki. Thanks for your article on these beautiful and fun statues of Raccoon dogs.

  2. Lucky Japanese racoon dogs! I knew lucky beckoning cats. Lucky foxes. (inari) I've never imagined lucky tanukis.