Statue of Raccoon Dog - Tanuki no Okimono
When walking around the streets in Japan, especially in Osaka-Kyoto, have you ever realized that there is often a statue of an extremely cute Raccoon dog in front of many houses and restaurants. So does it have any special meaning?
About the Statue of Raccoon Dog - Tanuki no Okimono (狸の置物)
In Japanese Tanuki means Raccoon Dog and Okimono is decorations. Together, Tanuki no Okimono means a decorative statue in the shape of the Raccoon Dog. Wearing a huge hat and holding a sake flask in his hand with a very big belly are all his "distinctive characteristics".
When I first came to Japan, I often mistook it as a statue of a cat (because Japanese people love cats) and thought that it might just be a common decoration. I never expected such a statue at the entrance would have so much meaning until I visited Kansai - the birthplace of the Statue of Tanuki.
Most of the restaurants here have a very nice little place in front of the door for the statue that kept me wondering if it had any meanings. Searching on the websites helped me nothing at all. Possibly not many people really cared about this little statue. After asking locals in Osaka city and reading through some documents in Japanese, I couldn't help myself saying "Wow"! Also, I realised how subtle mind of Japanese people are towards everything no matter how tiny it is.
Are you curious about what meanings and values this statue are holding on? Let's find it out!
The origin of placing the Statue of Tanuki in front of the house
Folktale has it that dating back to 1936, the first statue of Tanuki was made by Tetsuzo Fujiwara. One night in a dream, he was told to make a statue of Tanuki but the first version of the statue looked much wilder than now.
In 1952, Emperor Showa visited Shiga where Mr.Tetsuzo was living in Kansai area (Maybe this is why people place this statue in Osaka - Kyoto much more than in other areas?). The locals here put the statue of Tanuki along the streets to welcome the visit of the Emperor. He was extremely interested in the shape and meaning of the statue and since then, the statue of Tanuki has become very popular.
Meaning of the Tanuki
Tanuki was selected to be the shape of the statue because its name has "Ta" and "Nuki". In Japanese, "Ta" (他) means the other while "Nuki" (which verb form is "Nuku") (抜く) has the meaning of outperformance (The correct Kanji of Tanuki - 狸 - does not come from 2 words above but they are homophone. As a result, the words 他 and 抜く have been used to explain the meaning of Tanuki).
Placing the statue of Tanuki in front of the house is to desire for better self-development, achieve overwhelming superiority over others, in other words, to be the best.
The statue is usually placed in front of the restaurants to wish for the business to be always crowded and prosperous.
Every detail of the statue has its own meaning
- The big hat behind Tanuki is to avoid unexpected disasters.
- The big round eyes (in an odd way) symbolize the desire to have a general view, to see the whole picture of everything in order to care and serve customers better.
- The smile of Tanuki as a reminder of how to serve customers, always being kind and devoted.
- The sake flask symbolizes thankfulness for food.
- The note holding in Tanuki's hand is the passbook. It symbolizes for the importance of trust. Come rain or shine, nothing is more important than trust.
- The thick tail symbolizes the backbone that helps Tanuki always stand upright.
- Big and cute belly symbolizes generosity.
- And the lower part of the belly is considered a bag of gold, showing the desire of wealth, no shortage of money and material.
To conclude, the statue of Tanuki not only shows the delicacy of the Japanese but also means a wish for luck, goodness, success to the family and business. What do you think about the custom of placing the Tanuki statue in front of the door? Is it interesting? Which part of the statue that you like most?
See you in the next article!
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