A tanuki is a raccoon dog, an Asian animal that, although it looks like a raccoon, is actually a member of the dog and wolf family. They’re very popular in Japanese folklore, and were once believed to be sake-drinking, mischievious, shape-shifting tricksters with a big sexual appetite. The tanuki in this photo are at the Awashima-jinja, a shrine for unwanted dolls.



Over 90 percent of the tanuki statues that you see in Japan get “castrated”, or their scrotums get turned into something that makes it look like they’re sitting on a rock, so I was surprised to come across this statue that shows the tanuki’s traditional appearance.

Everything you ever wanted to know about tanuki can be found here at  Mark Schumacher’s excellent Buddhism & Shintoism in Japan A to Z Photo Dictionary.

There’s also a very nice post on Pink Tentacle about Shigaraki, the tanuki capital of Japan, with a description of the “Tanuki’s day off” when all the tanuki are given sleeping masks or put in poses as if they’re playing games or having picnics.

If you have never seen the infamous Japanese tanuki commercial, be sure to click here to see what may well be the most bizarre advertisement ever made.

Falconry Demonstration at Hamarikyu Teien Gardens

The Hamarikyu Teien is one of Tokyo’s nicer parks, and has traditional Japanese street performers and displays of falconry every day. Every year at New Year’s, however, they have a bigger demonstration of falconry that is much bigger than the daily demonstration.


Unless I’m mistaken, this is an owl rather than a hawk.


The birds wear these hoods to keep them from getting overstimulated and getting nervous.


Traditional falconry outfit.



The members of the falconry club seemed like real bird lovers. They paid great attention to their hawks, and obviously took very good care of them. That’s why it was so surprising when, at the end of the demonstration, they released a pigeon and let a hawk take it down. The pigeon was not killed, but it did seem unnecessarily cruel. I quite enjoyed it up until this point, but I’m not sure I’d go again.

There’s more information about Takagiri, the Japanese art of falconry here.

The group that puts on the demonstrations, the Suwa Falconry Preservation Society has a homepage at: http://www.falconers-hermitage.com/index.html

The demonstration is held on the first weekend in January every year. Check the Japan Times Festival page for more information.

Thanks, Your Manner


“If you tug on your dog’s leash, he won’t pee on our wall. WE WILL SUE YOU FOR DESTRUCTION OF PROPERTY. Thanks, Your Manner.”

Horseback Archery


This horseback archery event took place in Takadanobaba on Sports Day, October 9. In yabusame demonstrations, the participants gallop a horse at full speed down a track, and try to hit three small targets that are only a hundred meters or so apart.
Here’s a video: http://eos.kokugakuin.ac.jp/modules/xwords/entry.php?entryID=1030

Another good yabusame demonstration is held at the Meiji Shrine in Tokyo on Culture Day, November 3. It’s put on by the Takeda-ryu. According to their homepage, it’s possible to watch one of their practices on Sunday mornings, and they’re also recruiting new members: http://www.yabusame.or.jp/html/nyumon_J.html (Japanese only). Address: Kanagawa-ken, Miuri-shi, Hatsusemachi-koen 1140, Miura Kokusai Joba Kurabu, TEL 0467-22-1929

They have an English page at: http://www.yabusame.or.jp/english/


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Horseback Archery

Horseback archery (yabusame) demonstration in Nikko. There is a good demonstration of yabusame coming up on November 3 at the Meiji Shrine in Tokyo.web analytics

Kingyo Sukui Goldfish Scooping Game

It’s festival season here in Japan, and every matsuri is sure to have at least one kingyo sukui booth. Kids get plastic scoops with paper centers called a “poi” (the yellow circular things in their hands, not the bowls) and they have to use them to scoop up the goldfish. It usually costs around 300 yen a try.

There is even a National Goldfish Scooping Championship held in Yamatokoriyama City in Nara Prefecture. It was held on the 24th of August this year, and was won by Shigetaka Ishizawa in the adult’s division, who managed to scoop up an incredible 46 goldfish (most people are doing well to get just two or three). The contest’s homepage is here, but it’s in Japanese only.

If you think you might like to enter next year’s contest, Wikipedia’s article on “goldfish scooping” has this advice on technique:

-Do not chase a goldfish with the poi.It may be obvious that the paper will easily break if the player moves the poi violently in the water.Put the whole poi into the water softly and slantingly.
-Some people put only a part of it into the water, but it is not right to do. If a player does it, there will be a wet part and the other part on the paper. The boundary of them makes the paper easy to break. Also, water pressure will be greater if the player puts the poi into the water with it parallel with the water. Considering these technique, players should aim at a goldfish which is near the wall and near the surface.
-It is easier to predict the movements of a goldfish near the wall. Moreover, a goldfish has less way to escape from the poi. After a player see these technique, what the player has to do is practice. However, there is advanced technique for people who are familiar with goldfish scooping.
-Make a fixed shadow of yourself in the water.
-In general, goldfish have tendency to escape from a temporary shadow. On the other hand, they flock around a steady shadow. To take advantage of this habit of goldfish, players should be still when scooping them.web analytics

Ueno Snake Shop

I remember hearing about a snake shop in Ueno when I first came to Japan. I went and searched for it, but was never able to find it. Imagine my surprise when I stumbled across it yesterday, almost right beside Matsuzakaya Department Store. My snake phobia prevented me from going in, but it seems to be both a restaurant serving snake dishes, and a pharmacy selling Chinese medicine made from snake products. If you’re curious to see it, the shop’s name is Bunkyuudou, and the address is 4-4-1 Ueno, Taito-ku, Tel. 3831-2770. It’s near Okachimachi Station on the Yamanote Line, but the easiest way to get there is from Ueno Station. Go out the Central Exit and turn right, going past Marui Department Store and Yodobashi Camera on the left and the entrance to Ueno Park on the right. Keep going until you see Matsuzakaya Deprartment Store on the left. The snake shop is about half a block before it on the same side.

By the way, while I was looking for information about this shop, I found out that there are shops selling snake dishes and snake-derived medicine all over Japan. Here’s a Wikipedia page with a list: http://ja.wikipedia.org/wiki/%E5%91%B3%E8%A6%9A%E6%A5%B5%E6%A5%BDweb analytics

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