Real Live Tanuki Sighting!


Ahahaha, I bet you thought tanukis were the stuff of Japanese legends – crafty tricksters with notoriously large cojones who play pranks on gullible humans – but it turns out tanuki are alive and well and living on some of the choicest real estate in Tokyo!

This is the most common type of tanuki sighted in Japan – he (and his legendary 8-tatami-mat size you-know-whats) are usually spotted in urban habitats. The tend to live outside restaurants and shops, put to work 9-5 bringing in the business.
So imagine my surprise when I saw this furry fellow without his customary sake bottle, and no restaurant in sight!

I saw this little guy at the Meiji Shrine’s Nai-en Garden this week. He was about as big as a fox and was just hunkered down in the leaves near a main path with a front row seat for viewing the strange animals that had gathered in a chattering mob to take its picture. It got up and ambled over for a closer look before wandering back to its lair to post a “saw a whole herd of them today” on tanuki Facebook.

So, I got curious about them, and like so many things in Japan, truth is stranger than fiction! They are canids, but they can climb trees! They can eat poisonous toads! They hibernate in winter (although some only hibernate during mega-snowstorms)! Real ones, however, can’t turn into magic teakettles.

“Guess I’ll head back to my lair and Tweet about the exotic animals I saw today at the shrine garden…”

If you’d like to visit the Meiji Shrine and the Nai-en garden next time you’re in Tokyo, visit my website, The Tokyo Guide I Wish I’d Had. I can’t guarantee you’ll see a tanuki, but it’s well worth a visit anyway, because not only is the place gorgeous, you might see a Japanese wedding, women and children wearing beautiful kimonos, or free demonstrations of traditional Japanese music, dance, or archery.

The Last Tea Bowl Thief was chosen as an Editor’s Pick for
Best Mystery, Thriller & Suspense on Amazon

For three hundred years, a missing tea bowl passes from one fortune-seeker to the next, changing the lives of all who possess it…read more

“A fascinating mix of history and mystery.” —Booklist

Jonelle Patrick writes novels set in Japan, produces the monthly e-magazine Japanagram, and blogs at Only In Japan and The Tokyo Guide I Wish I’d Had

Published by Jonelle Patrick

Writes all the Japan things.

10 thoughts on “Real Live Tanuki Sighting!

  1. He’s so cute. I really wanted a Tanuki from that shop in Kyoto that has the little dressed up ones (yes I am that sad) but they seemed to require a small mortgage to purchase.

  2. Sweet! The only wild animal I have seen in that place was a turtle out on his morning walk between ponds. But at least there are a few hakubishin near me house that I see sometimes as night.

    1. Hakubishin! I badly, BADLY want to see one of these! A friend once told me that they come into her back yard in Kakinokizaka, but she won’t let me pitch a tent and camp there until I see one. ☆〜(ゝ。∂)

    1. Really?! I was at the Meiji Shrine yesterday and I thought about going into the garden, but I thought naaaah, the tanuki wouldn’t be there. I think I’ll go tomorrow and see if he makes an appearance! (=゚ω゚)

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