Wednesday, April 2, 2008
The Tanuki (Japanese racoon-dog),as with fox (Kitsune), is a popular character in Japanese folklore. The mythical Tanuki is often mischievous and jolly, he is thought to be able to shape shift, and sometimes believed to be a transformation of the souls of household goods that were used for one hundred years or more and several shrines have stories of past priests who were tanuki in disguise.
Although quite a trickster he is also gullible and easily distracted.
One well-known tale involving the Tanuki is that of “Bunbuku Chagama”
(rough translation,’happiness bubbling over like a tea pot). The story is of a poor man who finds a tanuki caught in a trap, he sets him free and then returns home.
That night, the tanuki comes to the poor mans house to thank him for his kindness. The Tanuki transforms himself into a teapot (chagama) and tell the man to sell him for money.
The man sells the teapot to a monk, who brings it home, cleans it and sets it over a fire to boil water, as the heat rises around him the tanuki sprouts legs and runs, half transformed, out the door and back to the poor man. This time the tanuki instructs the man to set up a roadside attraction and charge admission for people to see a teapot walking a tightrope. The plan works with the man no longer poor and giving the strange-looking tanuki a safe home.