Meet the Japanese tanuki.
Native to East Asia, they're members of the canine family even though
they strongly resemble raccoons.
Companionship and family are very important to tanuki.
They're generally monogamous and live in small close-knit groups.
Male tanuki are very nurturing to their young and have a reputation
for being compassionate partners and doting fathers.
Tanuki are the only canines to hibernate during the winter.
Again going with community and family, they are communal hibernators,
hunkering down in groups.
Tanuki feature prominently in Japanese folklore as Bake-danuki,
or Monster Raccoon Dog, a shape-shifting monster.
In the past couple hundred years, the tanuki have evolved into
more jovial spirits bestowing good fortune and prosperity.
Generally depicted with a bulbous belly, massive scrotum,
and host of goofy facial expressions, he is often seen carrying
a sake flask and a promissory note of unpaid bills.
(Sounds like some of my relatives.)
And believe it or not, the ginormous scrotum has nothing to do with
virility or sexual prowess, even though Japan is kinda kinky like that.
The story dates back to 19th century metal workers who wrapped gold
in tanuki skin before hammering it into gold leaf.
The tanuki skin was so strong that a tiny bit of gold could be
hammered thin enough to stretch across "eight tatami mats".
Because the Japanese terms for small ball of gold (kin no tama) and
testicles (kintama) sound so similar, the image of the satumi
with large testicular area came to represent good fortune
and "stretching one's money". And because bake-danuki
represent prosperity and economic growth,small statues are frequently
found at the entrance of Japanese bars and restaurants,
bidding customers to "come in and don't be stingy."