You’ve probably seen these adorable tanuki figures outside of your favorite Japanese bar or restaurant, but did you happen to notice how, er, well endowed they are?
Yeah. Can’t unsee. Now that you know to look, it’s amazing you never noticed before, right? But nobody celebrated these giant gonads more inventively than Edo period artists. You might not think that having a giant hairy ballsack would be a particularly useful body part, but Japanese woodblock artist Kuniyoshi delighted in imagining how the well-endowed tanuki might wield such a gift to its advantage…
The reason scrotally well-endowed tanuki figures are so often found outside businesses in Japan is that tanukis are known as shape-shifting tricksters who can deceive everyone from shopkeepers to brothel owners into taking worthless dry leaves for payment. Apparently, putting a tanuki outside the door fools other marauding tanukis into thinking one of their kind is already preying on the patsies inside.
And the reason their balls have grown to be so legendary in size is that goldsmiths used to wrap chunks of gold in tanuki testicle hide to pound them into the thinnest of gold leaf. Because this tanuki leather was so tough, it was said to be able to stretch the gold into a sheet large enough to cover eight tatami mats. Wallets made of tanuki hide became popular, because it was believed they could stretch other kinds of money as effectively as they stretched gold, and the depiction of the tanuki’s bodacious ballsacks stretched along with the legend.
The Last Tea Bowl Thief was chosen as an Editor’s Pick for
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“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
16 thoughts on “When Nothing But Unnecessarily Large Tanuki Testicles Will Do”
Excellent! I reblogged it… after I had a big laugh 😂
Thanks for sharing the giant hairy balls goodness! The perfect art for 2020, don’t you think? lol
I may print some and send them as Xmas cards to see who notices…🤣
BEST IDEA EVER lmtto (laughing my tanuki testicles off)
Good !we need to laugh a bit here . We are in lockdown from tonight BUT all schools are open with no particular secure measures ( just a mask that I have to buy myself).!!! 🤬🤬🤬
You have my deepest sympathies. This has been the most horrible year ever, and it feels like it will never end. Praying HARD for a vaccine
Oh my goodness. Who knew?? Tenukis will never be the same. D❌👩🌾⭕️🍁
Sent from my iPhone
I know, sorry, can’t unsee! lol
Have you visited the Tanuki shrine in Asakusa? We have collected several Tanuki statues from our visits to Japan.
There’s a tanuki shrine in Asakusa? How have I gone there umpty million times and not known this? WHERE?
Chingodo Shrine, dedicated to tenuki, is located on the north side of Denboin Street in Asakusa. This street is only 200 meters long and the shrine is close to its western end, so it is quite easy to find. Check out this link: https://www.asakusastation.com/chingodo-shrine/
Aha! I DO know that shrine, but (lazy me) never read the signs to learn that excellent story and fully appreciate that it’s a TANUKI SHRINE! Must re-visit, armed with new appreciation. Thank you so much for that excellent link and the info—it’s not often that someone tells me something new about Asakusa, and that’s a jewel of info well worth doing something more with. Many thanks—and I’m so happy that our paths have crossed here!
I love this Jonelle so amazing how flexible and pliable these scrotums are….hehehe
Yes, they are amazing, aren’t they? I had to laugh at every new inventive usage. The only woodblock prints funnier than these might be the fart battles, but those all get pretty similar after awhile. The tanuki testicles seem to inspire greater flights of fancy!
Jonelle, you are welcome. I enjoyed your book “Nightshades” and hope to read more. Thank you for the interesting blog.