Kyoto Tanuki


Kyoto Tanuki, Watercolor on Archival Paper, 8″ x 10″, 20 cm x 25.5 cm

Anyone who has traveled and lived in Japan can’t help but be intrigued by the Tanuki, the Japanese Raccoon Dog! This animal is a subspecies of the raccoon dog native to Japan.   An artist’s version in ceramic statuary is mostly seen outside of Japanese bars and cafes, to symbolize wealth and prosperity, because of some Japanese word play associated with a certain anatomical feature! (See number five below.)   Folklore legend of the Tanuki  portrays this creature as a mischievous prankster with shape shifting abilities that can take on a human form.

The legend of the Tanuki has eight special traits that bring on good fortune:

  1.  A hat to protect against trouble or bad weather
  2.   Big eyes to make good decisions
  3.   A sake bottle that represents virtue
  4.   A big tail that provides steadiness and strength
  5.   An over-sized scrotum that symbolizes financial luck
  6.   A promissory note that represents trust or confidence
  7.   A big belly that symbolizes bold and calm decision-making
  8.   A friendly smile

While traveling in Kyoto, I visited a workshop that made ceramic Tanukis.  They can be as tiny as 3 inches and as tall as 6 feet.  All varieties and sizes were nestled in the bamboo wooded area around the workshop, this particular guy caught my eye and was the inspiration for this painting.

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