Talking of ‘Shigaraki-yaki’, the pottery made in Shigaraki, the earthenware figurine of a male raccoon dog standing elect on its hind legs is well known.
Something like raccoon dog figurines in the picture is occasionally found under the eaves of many shops and restaurants in Japan. This plump raccoon dog with a woven hat and a ‘sake’ bottle in its left hand is widely known as the symbol of ‘Shigaraki’ ware and is regarded as a good luck charm for a lucrative business.
Shigaraki in Shiga Prefecture, in the vicinity of Kyoto and Nara, has been developed into one of the largest manufacturing center of the tea ceremony-related pottery since the middle ages, making the most of the good kaolin gotten in its neighborhood. In the Edo period,the 17th century, daily necessaries such as an earthen pot and jar began to be made, then in the Meiji period, the 19th century, this place became Japan’s largest production center of ‘hibach’ ceramic brazier.
In the course of the long history, the raccoon dog figurine appeared for the first time in 1951, when the Emperor Showa, Hirohito, visited here to receive a warm and enthusiastic reception of the locals with very many raccoon dog figurines. He was deeply impressed by that unique way of the welcoming ovation and so composed a poem on that event.
This poem has led the local raccoon dog to the nation wide reputation.
By Masahisa Takaki.