A tanuki is a raccoon dog in Japanese, and in Japanese culture the tanuki has become a symbol of chubby good cheer and fortune (a comparatively recent development, as the original image was of a shape-shifting trickster). In other words, the tanuki in Japan has become something very akin to that cat that waves in fortune with its paw, the maneki neko.
I was recently in Asakusa, a very traditional part of east-end Tokyo, and noticed that one small street was lined with little tanuki shrines.
One of them featured this "Couple Tanuki" with the following explanation above it: "This young tanuki couple from Asakusa get on well together and promise couples marital harmony, the ability to make up after arguments, and a life lived together in ongoing contentment and good cheer."
There were several other tanuki similarly enshrined in various poses and promising various good things, but this stolid couple somberly promising bliss somehow stole my heart!
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