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Ceramic statues of Tanuki are found everywhere in modern Japan, especially outside bars and restaurants, where a pudgy Tanuki effigy typically beckons drinkers and diners to enter and spend generously (a role similar to Maneki Neko, the Beckoning Cat, who stands outside retail establishments.) In his modern form, the fun-loving Tanuki is commonly depicted with a big tummy, a straw hat, a bewildered facial expression (he is easily duped), a giant scrotum, a staff attached to a sake flask, and a promissory note (that he never pays).
Many of these attributes suggest his money was wasted on wine, women, and food (but this is incorrect; see below).
The newer tamer parts, such as the big belly, belly drumming, giant scrotum, and sake bottle can be traced to late Edo-era Japan (18th-19th centuries), while the commercialized benevolent parts (promissory note, straw hat) emerged in Japanese artwork around the beginning of the 20th century.In general, the goofy-looking Tanuki we are familiar with today is a recent creation, mostly Japanese.But by carefully investigating Tanuki’s remote origins from China, we can demarcate original property from borrowed property.More surprisingly, most of these attributes were created in very modern times (in the last three centuries; see Tanuki in Modern Times).Although the Japanese continue to classify Tanuki as a yōkai 妖怪 (monster, spirit, specter, fantastic/strange being), the creature today is no longer frightening or mysterious.
In their earliest malevolent manifestations (transmitted via Chinese fox lore to Japan by at least the 7th century CE), Tanuki assumed human form, haunted and possessed people, and were considered omens of misfortune.