In Japanese folklore raccoon dogs are celebrated as lovable buffoons or drunken rascals. This is one of the reasons why a ceramic likeness of the tanuki is often found at the entrance of nomiya (local drinking places, with menus written on strips of paper or a blackboard and often with a couple of red paper lanterns at the entrance) and other drinking places. Also in shops selling alcohol.
We’ve seen pottery tanukis around all over Japan, in shop windows, at the entrance to bars, and quite often in Shrine gardens—I gather because the makers of sake (Japanese rice wine) feel it is an honor to donate sake to the Shrine. We frequently see large banks of sake casks (called taruzake) stacked in the Shrine precincts, the name and logo of the brewer prominently displayed.
We’ve also seen them in Temple gardens—I still need to find out their significance there!
Note: There was some confusion about the name of these animals. Some guidebooks call tanuki badgers, but all the Japanese people I’ve spoken to assure me that they are raccoon dogs. These animals are native to East Asia and are named for their resemblance to raccoons, to which they are actually not closely related.
(See more pics below–
click on an image for larger size)