Are Tanukis Pastafarians?

But there is more to the tanuki story! For you see, in Japan they have become legendary creatures and cultural icons. From Wikipedia:

Tanuki have been part of Japanese myth since ancient times. The mythical tanuki is reputed to be mischievous and jolly, a master of disguise and shapeshifting, but somewhat gullible and absent-minded.

WARNING: TANUKI PORN BELOW(Don’t say I didn’t warn you)

The current humorous image of tanuki is thought to have been developed during the Kamakura era. The wild tanuki has unusually large testicles, a feature often comically exaggerated in artistic depictions of tanuki. Tanuki may be shown with their testicles flung over their backs like a traveller’s pack, or using them as drums. Tanuki are also typically depicted as having large bellies. They may be shown drumming on their bellies instead of their testicles, especially in children’s art.

Here are several portrayals…

Kind of makes sense. Chimps – a highly promiscuous species – have large testicles due to among other things sperm competion between males. Since tanukis live in groups, one wonders if the same competition between male sperm might happen…?

This does not exhaust the list of remarkable things about the tanuke though. For you see the tanuki have theological implications as well. From Wikipedia:

Statues of tanuki can be found outside many Japanese temples and restaurants, especially noodle shops. These statues often wear a big, cone-shaped hat and carry a bottle of sake. Tanuki statues always have a large belly, although contemporary sculptures may or may not show the traditional large testicles. These exaggerated features represent fertility and plenty.

Note the bolded words “…especially noodle shops.” Which, of course, implies some kind of relationship between the Flying Spaghetti Monster and tanuki. If you think about it the relationship becomes really clear. Pastafarians belive there is a beer volcanoe in heaven. What happens when you drink lot’s of beer for long periods of time? You get a beer belly just like the tanuki. Pastafarians also belive there is a stripper factory in heaven, which leads us to the other prominent characteristic of tanukis…

Friday Tanuki Blogging

The animals to the left are tanuki, or more scientifically, Nyctereutes procyonoides. Prosaically they are raccoon dogs. They come in six subspecies.

* N. p. procyonoides — Asia
* N. p. koreensis — Korea
* N. p. orestes — Yunnan
* N. p. ussuriensis — Russia
* N. p. viverrinus — Japan (Honshu,Shikoku and Kyushu)
* N. p. albus — Japan (Hokkaido)

They are also quite remarkable creatures. Let’s start with one of the Japanese forms. N. p. viverrinus entered Japan some 18,000 years BP. By approximately 12,000 BP the Sea of Japan had cut Japan off from the rest of asia and N. p. viverrinus went on it’s merry way. Incidently, in Japan the raccoon dog is called a Tanuki – but more on that later. On the mainland, raccoon dogs have 54 chromosomes, in Japan 38 – mainly due to Robertsonian translocations. Interestingly enough there is some evidence that the raccoon dog karyotype is the most primitive of the canine species. There is also some evidence indicating homologies between some raaccoon dog chromosome fragments and cat chromosomes. The Japanese species are smaller than mainland species and may live in groups. The mainland species are larger, able to accumulate more fat reserves, have thicker fur and are dormant during the winter. They are also monogamous and hence very little sexual dimorphism exists in mainland species. In Japanese raccoon dogs (or tanuki) the molars are especially large compared to mainland populations. This is largely attributed to differences in diet. Japanese tanuki tend to eat insects, other invertebrates and course plant material. Mainland raccoon dogs are more omnivorous.

This is where the story starts to get interesting. Between 1929 and 1955 about 9,100 raccoon dogs were imported into the former Soviet Union – mainly the European part. From there they spread far and wide reaching places such as Belarus and Finland. As a matter of fact they pose an invasive species problem for much of eastern Europe. This is largely because the raccoon has one of the highest litter sizes in the canine family (I forgot to mention they were canines didn’t I?). Mean litter size in some areas is 9 cubs but can reach a maximum of 16. Their omnivorous diet and the fact that they sleep through the winter also aides in their spread. The one place they have not been able to spread to is Lapland. This is because Lapland summers are too short for raccoon dog cubs to accumulate enough fat to survive the long Lapland winter.

More info:

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