"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.
"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."
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.
The fox plays a role in Japanese culture that's unusually rich and complicated. Beliefs that developed when people lived much closer to nature persist in stories, festivals, and language. Even in these rational times, the fox has a magical aura that still lingers.
The fox is associated with Inari as a symbol, a messenger, a servant, or maybe more. Inari is the Japanese god of foxes, of fertility, rice, tea and sake, of agriculture and industry, of general prosperity and worldly success, and one of the principal gods of Shinto.
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'.
A white feline hiding from the afternoon's sun behind the curtain of draping flowers.
Japan is full with wonderful landscapes, but there is one place in particular where you can take a magnificent walk through the pastel-colored passageway of wisteria flowers at the Kawachi Fuji Gardens in Kitakyushu. The gardens are home to about 150 Wisteria flowering plants spanning 20 different species (white, blue, purple, violet-blue and pink).
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.