Greetings! It's been a while since I've posted and we can all thank real life for that. Over the past few months we've had to deal with it coming at us full force and not pulling any punches. While some things will never be the same, we are starting to come out on the other side and the future looks bright.
When things get rough who better to turn to than a friend you grew up with – Mario of course! In this case I am talking about Super Mario Bros. 3 and on. It's hard to find someone that grew up in that era that does not have fond memories of SMB3 - the art design/graphics took things to a whole new level and how it was a game unlike any we had played before. With this game came a slew of new power-ups, specifically the Super Leaf and Tanooki Suit.
That all changed recently when a Face Book friend posted something on tanuki (actual spelling), which spurred me to do some research. It turns out that they are very real and not related to raccoon at all! A tanuki is actually a "raccoon dog," named as such because of regional dialect and their obviously similar characteristics. They belong to the Canidae family which also includes wolves, jackals and foxes. Tanuki are native to Japan but there has been some dispersion of the species into main land Asia and recently Europe.
The tanuki is deeply embedded in in Japanese folklore and statues or shrines dedicated to them can be found everywhere. While they were once thought of as malevolent yokai (ghosts), that opinion gradually changed over the years to them being more mischievous and somewhat goofy. In modern times, pottery statues can be found outside of restaurants or bars enticing patrons to come in and spend their money. (Note: If you crave more historical and detailed information on the tanuki, check out their Wikipedia page which is greatly fleshed out)
Besides Super Mario Bros. there are two other main pop culture appearances where you may have seen them. The first is from the wildly popular manga and anime series Naruto. The character Garaa is a vessel for the “tailed beast,” Shukaku, a tanuki. This is also why Gaara has dark circles around his eyes, simulating a raccoon dog's mask.
The last thing to address and probably the seemingly most random or weird characteristic they are represented with are their gigantic scrotums. This actually came about through gold smithing. Taken from the website the Mother Nature Network:
“Believe it or not, the mythical tanuki's exaggerated scrotum has nothing to do with male virility or sexual over-indulgence.
The origin of this defining characteristic dates back to 19th century, when metal workers wrapped gold in tanuki skin before hammering it into gold leaf. The strength of the tanuki's skin was so great that, according to legend, a tiny piece of gold could be hammered thin enough to stretch across eight tatami mats.
Because the Japanese terms for a small ball of gold ("kin no tama") and testicles ("kintama") are so phonetically similar, the image of a tanuki with a gigantic testicular region is now associated with good fortune and stretching one's money."
Look out for an upcoming post - I will be announcing the launch of a creative endevour where FYN will act as the preview platform for all future releases. Until next time, good journey!