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Renge-116 Uji, Kyoto 611-0021, Japan

Ever Heard of a Tanuki?

I had not. And yet, these are precisiely the stories that make travel such much fun.

A Tanuki is a racoon dog, a pretty cute animal. They're also mystical, shape-shifting spirits, that are represented in statues, often positioned near shops, restaurant and bars, all throughout Japan. I came across quite a few of them in the small commercial area adjoining Byodoin Temple. It can be a bit of an easter-hunt to spot them. They are urry, fun-loving creatures with silly faces, a big round happy belly AND–not entirely sure why–humongeous balls! Tanukis often carry sake bottles, and IOU notes. Just like the Japanese lucky cat, they are supposed to bring fortune to their owners' establishments. Sometimes you can find even them in front of shrines.

When I researched them, I came across this funny tidbit: 1994 brought about a famous Japanese animation, called 'Pom Poko', where a bunch of Tanuki stop the bad guys from destroying their life-giving forest. They use all sorts of combat stragtegies, including fighting the enemy (you guessed it) with their impossibly large scrotums. Once the film was to be released in English, to a Western audience, the widely accepted 'balls' in Japan, became much tamer 'pouches' for the rest of the world ; )

My warmest thank you – domo arigato gozai masu – to the @SuntoryGlobal team, who went above and beyond, introducing me to Japan's food and drink culture, and Tanukis ; ) I'm forever in your debt. #SuntoryTime #SuntoryTimeTour