Tanuki, the japanese raccoon dog

The Japanese raccoon dog, also known as tanuki in Japanese, is a subspecies of the raccoon dog native to Japan.

Researchers have suggested that they be considered a separate species or that raccoon dogs of Japan could be further divisible into separate subspecies, but both views are controversial

As the tanuki, the animal has been significant in Japanese folklore since ancient times. The legendary tanuki is reputed to be mischievous and jolly, a master of disguise and shapeshifting, but somewhat gullible and absentminded. It is also a common theme in Japanese art, especially statuary.

Although the tanuki is a real, extant animal, the bake-danuki that appears in literature has always been depicted as a strange, even supernatural animal. The earliest appearance of the bake-danuki in literature, in the chapter about Empress Suiko in the Nihon Shoki, there are such passages as “in two months of spring, there are tanuki in the country of Mutsu, they turn into humans and sing songs. The tanuki of Japan from time immemorial were deified as governing all things in nature, but after the arrival of Buddhism, animals other than envoys of the gods (foxes, snakes, etc.) lost their divinity. Since all that remained was the image of possessing special powers, they were seen as evil, with Tanuki being a representative type. Compared with kitsune (foxes), which are the epitome of shape-changing animals, there is the saying that “the fox has seven disguises, the tanuki has eight”. The tanuki is thus superior to the fox in its disguises, but unlike the fox, which changes its form for the sake of tempting people, tanuki do so to fool people and make them seem stupid. There is also the theory that they simply like to change their form.