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!
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.
If you’d like to visit the Meiji Shrine and the Nai-en garden next time you’re in Tokyo, directions & a map are on 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.
Don’t miss The Last Tea Bowl Thief!
“A wonderful blend of history and mystery.” —Laura Joh Rowland, author of The Iris Fan
Writing mystery books set in Tokyo is mostly what I do, but I also blog about the odd stuff I see every day in Japan. I'm a graduate of Stanford University and the Sendagaya Japanese Institute in Tokyo, and a member of the International Thriller Writers, the Mystery Writers of America, and Sisters In Crime. When I'm not in Tokyo, I live in San Francisco. I also host a travel site called The Tokyo Guide I Wish I'd Had, so if you're headed to Japan and want to check out the places I take my friends when they're in town, take a look!