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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).
Instead, it has shape-changed into a harmless and amusing fellow, one more interested in encouraging generosity and cheerfulness among winers and diners than in annoying humankind with its tricks.
Tanuki are also portrayed as cute and lovable characters in modern cartoons and movies -- even as mascots in commercial campaigns. It is often confused with the badger (ana-guma) and the raccoon (arai-guma).
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).
The fox-like Tanuki appear often in Japanese folklore as shape-shifters with supernatural powers and mischievous tendencies.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 Tochigi Prefecture, for example, the Tanuki is called “Mujina.” In 1924, in the so-called Tanuki-Mujina Incident , Tochigi authorities prohibited the hunting of Tanuki and promptly arrested one hunter -- who claimed he was out hunting mujina.The man was taken to trial, but eventually acquitted (on 9 June 1925).