Happy Spring! Now that things are finally warming up, I've been taking some great rides out in the mountains behind my house. I live in Ritto City, Shiga Prefecture, with just a few 600 meter tall hills separating me from Shigaraki, home of the tanuki. Many people know the tanuki well; he stands outside Izukaya's across the country with sake jug in hand, beckoning in customers with his jovial grin (and testicles that reach down to the ground). All of these ceramic tanuki statues originate from Shigaraki.
Despite practically living in the tanuki den, I have yet to see one of these chimerical creatures.
Until today! This morning while riding up to Konshou Temple behind my house, I saw my first elusive racoon dog! (If you look at the map below, I marked the spot with a little dog symbol.)
This was a really special experience, because I've been worried they were endangered didn't exist. Around the world indigenous species have been disappearing in alarming numbers due to human interference. In the past the only stories I've heard of real tanuki was as roadkill, so this morning's encounter gave me a bit of hope that the tanuki are still alive and well.