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Tanuki - Japanese spelling, plus various images of the animal

SLIDESHOW
TANUKI'S LARGE SCROTUM
THIS IS A SIDE PAGE. RETURN TO MAIN TANUKI PAGE.

In the 19th century, various Japanese artists created numerous (and humourous) woodblock prints showing the Tanuki's 狸 large scrota, nut sack, kinbukuro 金袋 (money bags, gold bags), or kintama 金玉 (golden balls) in creative ways. Such artists included the famed Utagawa Kuniyoshi 歌川国芳 (1798-1861), Tsukioya Yoshitoshi 月岡芳年 (1839-1892), and Kawanabe Kyōsai 河鍋暁斎 (1831-1889). The below photos come primarily from the KuniyoshiProject.com web site  (1, 2), with a few others from PrintsofJapan.com (1, 2, 3, 4).

 

LEARN MORE

  • Tanuki's large scrotum does not mean over-indulgence in sex, but rather "luck with expanding one's money and wealth." The most accepted explanation for his king-size nut sack comes from Ōwaku Shigeo 大和久重雄 in his book Hagane no Chishiki 鋼の知識 (Knowledge about Steel; Diamond Shakan, 1971). Writes Alice Gordenker in the 15 July 2008 Japan Times: "Ōwaku traces the super-size scrotum story to metal workers in Kanazawa Prefecture. To make gold leaf, these craftsmen would wrap gold in a tanuki skin before carefully hammering the gold into thin sheets. It was said that gold is so malleable, and tanuki skin so strong, that even a small piece [of gold] could be thinned to the size of eight tatami mats (Hachijōjiki 八畳敷き; about 12 sq. meters). And because the Japanese for 'small ball of gold' (kin no tama 金の玉) is very close to the slang term for testicles (kintama 金玉), the eight-mat brag got stuck on tanuki's bag. Soon, [scrotum] images of a tanuki began to be sold as prosperity charms, purported to stretch one's money and bring good fortune." <end quote> In the same story, Gordenker discusses popular school-yard songs celebrating the Tanuki's large sack. "Tan-tan-tanuki no kintama wa, kaze mo nai no ni, bura bura." (translation = Tanuki's balls, there isn't any wind but they still go swing, swing, swing). <end quote Gordenker>
     
  • The 18th and 19th centuries were apparently a heyday for low humor. See Robin D. Gill's Octopussy, Dry Kidney & Blue Spots - Dirty Themes from 18th -19th Century Japanese Poems, Paraverse Press, 2007. See section entitled Balls Gold & Blue as well as the term Senki-mochi 疝気持.

THIS IS A SIDE PAGE. RETURN TO MAIN TANUKI PAGE.

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Copyright 1995 - 2011. Mark Schumacher. Email Mark.
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