Tanuki and her baby

Polychrome lacquered wood sculpture of a tanuki dressed as a pilgrim, carrying its baby on its back. Their eyes are in horn.

The tanuki is a kind of racoon dog which is part of the yôkai (spirits) of Japanese folklore. It is endowed with magical powers: it can metamorphose and take many different forms. This spirit is a symbol of luck and prosperity. As a prankster, it beats its swollen belly with its paws like a drum, imitating the sound of a temple or inn gong to mislead travelers who are late at night. It is represented from the Middle Ages on emaki (painted scrolls).

Very popular, it is present in many Japanese tales. For example, the Bunbuku chagama (分福茶釜) tells the story of a tanuki playing with a monk by transforming into a kettle.

The pilgrimage is a spirituel journey that could be in honour of the goddess Kannon Buddhist divinity of the mercy or in honour of the monk Kukai, founder of the Buddhist school Shingon. There would be hundreds of pilgrimages on the archipelago. The pilgrim (aruki henro) walks in order to make gift and prayers before to receive a distinctive stamp. He transports a special stamp’s notebook, it is common to stamp directly on the coat. The most older Japanese pilgrimage was create by the mook Kûkai in 774-835, he crossed 88 sacred temples.

The den-den daiko (でんでん太鼓) is a Japanese pellet tambourin. Paradoxically, the den-den daiko was rarely used as a tambourin. It is rather a rattle destined to children in order to calm them. He is also often used in religious rituals or as a noisemaker at festival stalls. It is found in other cultures in Tibet, Mongolia, India, and China.

Signed below Kokusan (国山).

Japan – Taishô Era (1912-1926)

Height: 13.3 in. (34 cm) – Width: 4.9 in. (12.5 cm) – Depth: 5.1 in. (13 cm)