Tanuki Raccoon Dog and Kettle

Tanuki Raccoon Dog and Kettle


Kettles are called yakan in Japan where in the past they were commonly used to boil water for cooking as well as for use with the Japanese tea ceremony. Copper (dou) kettles are appreciated for their even heat distribution as well as their beauty and durability. Japanese folklore relates the story of how a clever Tanuki Raccoon Dog (it is a real animal) eluded a hunter by turning into a pot-bellied tea kettle. The story goes that a hungry priest began chasing an unlucky Tanuki with the aim of having the Tanuki for dinner. The clever Raccoon Dog then tried to hide himself by transforming into a yakan tea kettle. The disappointed priest returned home with the kettle, resigned to have only tea for supper. However upon placing the kettle over the fire the priest was surprised to see the vessel promptly sprout arms and legs and then begin running about the room. In no time the kettle had transformed back into a Tanuki which then ran out the door and escaped into the night. This old story is called Bunbuku Chagama in Japanese and was especially popular in Japan during the long Edo period (1600-1868) when Tanuki were the subject of many folk tales and every family had a yakan kettle kept at the boil within the family hearth. The relation between Tanuki and kettle comes from the fact that both are notable for their pot-bellied middles.

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