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In old Japan, Tanuki were hunted for their meat (reputed to have medicinal qualities), their fur (used for brushes and clothing) and their scrotal skin (used as a malleable sack for hammering gold into gold leaf).They live in burrows, and come out after sunset until the wee hours of the morning.16, 2011) I spoke with a representative of a cat-lovers group from Yokohama, one helping to find homes for stray cats, and she said many tanuki now inhabit the area, many steal the food set out for the cats, and many suffer from mange.To help the suffering tanuki, they inject a sweet bread with medicine (a bread the cats will not eat) and mix it together with food for the cats. The Tanuki is reportedly native to Japan, southeastern Siberia, and Manchuria.
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.
Yet the Japanese are equally adept at creating their own lore, as exemplified by their homespun Tanuki legends.
The fox-like Tanuki appear often in Japanese folklore as shape-shifters with supernatural powers and mischievous tendencies.
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).