"In Japanese mythology, grain farmers once worshipped wolves at shrines and left food offerings near their dens, beseeching them to protect their crops from wild boars and deer. Talismans and charms adorned with images of wolves were thought to protect against fire, disease, and other calamities and brought fertility to agrarian communities and to couples hoping to have children. The Ainu people believed that they were born from the union of a wolf like creature and a goddess."
H/t: The Lost Wolves Of Japan (Brett L. Walker, 2005)
A peaceful autumn afternoon at the shrine saturated with both color and falling leaves.
Although it might be hard to tell, the animal depicted in this particular illustration is not your regular raccoon. In fact, this is Tanuki (or a raccoon dog), an atypical species of dog that can grow up to 60 cm in length, with distinctive stripes of black fur under its eyes. Unlike a raccoon, tanuki has a roundish nose, small floppy ears, short and furred paws for running, and a tail that is not ringed.
Originally an evil trickster and spook in Japanese folklore, Tanuki is now a benevolent modern-day symbol of generosity, cheer and prosperity.
An unlikely hero was on his way to slay a villainous wizard, when suddenly a wild menacing fur ball of shadow crossed his path. Contrary to much of the Western world, Japanese culture sees a black cat crossing your path as a good omen. In fact, black cats are generally seen as good luck in Japan and much of Asia.
"Japan perceives the butterfly to be a ‘soul of the living and the dead’, as a result of the popular belief that spirits of the dead take the form of a butterfly when on their journey to the other world and eternal life. The butterfly is also often used as a symbol for young girls as they spread their wings and emerge into womanhood, as well as it being believed to symbolise joy and longevity."
One of the more famous elements in Asian folklore is the Moon rabbit. It's a myth based on pareidolia that identifies the markings of the Moon as a rabbit. Although it originated in China, the myth eventually spread to other Asian cultures as well.
Fun fact: the civilian name of the infamous character Sailor Moon by Naoko Takeuchi is actually Tsukino Usagi which, you guessed it right, means - 'the rabbit of the moon'.
If you slightly squint your eyes, you can notice that this is no ordinary hill, in fact, it's no hill at all.
The Shiba Inu breed is Japan's one of the most cherished treasures. Literally meaning 'the brushwood dog' these dogs were traditionally used for hunting small animals. Nowadays, Shiba Inus are popular in pop-culture, and one of the reasons for that is the infamous story of Hachiko, a loyal Shiba dog that waited for his owner every day after his owner's death for almost ten years.
In the folklore, tanukis were known to be masters of illusion. They could shapeshift into any form of their liking - anything from an old bedridden woman to a bottle of white wine. Once in disguise, they would use little rhymes to lure people into their games, and although not harmful, they tended to end in some inconvenience or embarrassment.
Inoshishi (the boar) is part of the Japanese culture and mythology. It is one of the 12 Chinese zodiac symbols. In the past, the boar was called yamakujira, meaning "the whale of the mountains." It is still considered a dangerous animal, that sometimes attacks people and damages crops. It appears in the Japanese folklore, as the boar gods in "Princess Mononoke" or as Inosasao - the boar with the back covered in bamboo leaves.