May 03, 2012

Foxes and raccoons

Buckwheat noodles with deep-fried tofu strips simmered in a hot broth are known as kitsune (fox) soba in the Tokyo area and tanuki (raccoon) soba in the Osaka area.

The kitsune and tanuki often pair up in Japanese folk and fairy tales, with the fox as the Dean Martin character (the cool hipster) and the tanuki as Jerry Lewis (the comic relief).

A good example is Studio Ghibli's Pom Poko, which has a bunch of bumbling raccoons trying to save their land from a housing development. They don't get a lot done until a smooth-talking fox shows up.

Pom Poko is also the only Disney flick that includes a running joke about a rather particular part of the male anatomy. Tanuki are well-endowed down there, making them symbols of fertility and wealth.

Usually depicted sporting a straw hat, carrying a bottle of booze in one hand and the Edo period version of a checkbook in the other, they're always ready to either get down to business or party hearty.

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