[Nausicaa.Net] The Hayao Miyazaki Web

||  Main  |  Mailing List  |  Films  |  Search  |  Ghiblink  |  Feedback  ||
[Pom Poko mainpage]
Heisei Tanuki Gassen Pom Poko
(Pom Poko)


Reviews & Articles
1). Review, Variety (May 8, 1995 - May 14, 1995)
2). Moscow News (September 15, 1995)
3). Variety (February 6, 1995 - February 12, 1995)
4). The Daily Yomiuri (July 16, 1994)
5). Chicago Sun-Times (June 11, 1995)
6). Star Tribune (July 6, 1995)
7). THE ORLANDO SENTINEL (June 30, 1995)
8). THE ORLANDO SENTINEL (July 7, 1995)
9). Variety (June 19, 1995 - June 25, 1995)
10). The Hollywood Reporter (November 11, 1994)
11). Los Angeles Times (January 31, 1995)
12). Variety (August 29, 1994 - September 4, 1994)
13). Daily Variety (June 7, 1995)
14). Mainichi Daily News (April 17, 1994)
15). The Daily Yomiuri (December 9, 1995)


1). Variety

May 8, 1995 - May 14, 1995


BYLINE: Levy Emanuel

A Tokuma Shoten Publishing Co. production. Produced by Yasuyoshi Tokuma, Seiichiro Ujiie, Ritsuo Isobe.

Directed, written by Isao Takahata; music, Koryo, Manto Watanobe, Yoko Ino, Masaru Goto, Ryojiro Furusawa; art direction, Shinji Otsuka, Yoshiyuki Momose, Razu Oga.

Reviewed at USA Film Festival, Dallas, April 23, 1995. Running time: 112 MIN.

" Pom Poko, " Japan's submission this year for the foreign-language Oscar, is a well-executed, ecologically minded animated feature. Displaying a different sensibility and values from those of U.S. cartoons, this colorful tale about a courageous group of raccoons fighting to save their forest from destruction should be enjoyed by fans of the genre in film festivals and on video.

According to Japanese mythology, raccoons possess the power to transform themselves into human beings -- or other creatures -- at will. When a tribe of raccoons finds out that a housing development project is going to destroy their forest, they organize, mobilize all their resources and use their fighting skills to halt the greedy plan.

Unlike U.S. animated features, most notably the Disney brand, " Pom Poko" is not made for children, nor does it embody standard family values or routine love stories. This accomplished fable exhibits an adult sensibility, droll sense of humor, slapstick comedy and a tough, matter-of-fact attitude.

Japanese language (with English subtitles), traditional music and a nearly two-hour running time might discourage viewers who are used to lighter and shorter cartoons with soupy, melodic music. The movie is graced with wit and a beautiful production design, dominated by rich, bold colors and a fast tempo, particularly when the raccoons transform themselves into human beings.

Back toIndex   

2) Moscow News

September 15, 1995

Animation Festival a Hit in Annecy

BYLINE: Alla Bossart

HIGHLIGHT: The small town of Annecy in the north of France held a cartoon festival, which demonstrated this art's boundless possibilities.


Specialists have always understood everything a long time ago, but we, "Disneyian" simpletons, suddenly discovered that animated cartoons have ceased to be a childish, deductive or entertaining art, leaving these worries to the plague of computer films. It stopped being an individual incident at the cinema and developed into self-sufficient and independent culture.

Animated cartoons became the receptacle of dozens of individual incidents, a fact that was expressed in the 26 programs of the festival in Annecy, which featured detective films and musicals, historical and humorist films, commercials and television films, computerized films and films d'auteur.

According to Jean-Luc Xiberras, director of the festival, "the programs were formed in such a way as to draw a comprehensive picture of the state of animation in the past two years." Of the 1,236 films presented at the competition, 214 were selected. The criteria for the selection were often baffling.

What could actually be "drawn" about the phenomenon of Japan as the world's strongest animation power, by the endless saga " Pompoko" about raccoons-werewolves in the genre of kind of ecological thriller? For two hours the raccoons fight against human civilization, simultaneously transforming into humans, or into pots (director Izas Takahata). All the turns of the plot become exhausted in 15 minutes into the cartoon, with the characters having sort of jumped out of "Bambi" and "Snow White" (hence evidently also the prize for the best drawn film), plus the lavish Japanese text that no one understands.

Back toIndex   


February 6, 1995 - February 12, 1995



Magical racoons stole the show in Japan, starring in the animated feature " Pom Poko. " It became Japan's top-grossing local production last year and its official entry to win the foreign-lingo Oscar this spring.

" Pom Poko" -- not a kids-only pic -- concerns the suffocation of wildlife by urbanization. JAPANESE FOREIGN " Pom Poko" (Toho) "Cliffhanger" (Toho Towa) $ 26.3 million $ 40.0 million "Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla" (Toho) "True Lies" (Nippon Herald) $ 18.7 million $ 35.0 million "Tora-San" (Shochiku) "Schindler's List" (UIP) $ 15.7 million $ 20.5 million Source: Motion Picture Producers Assn. of Japan


Back toIndex   

4). The Daily Yomiuri

July 16, 1994, Sunday

Takahata's raccoon dogs fight land development

Kyoko Nakajima; Daily Yomiuri Staff Writer

When director Isao Takahata discovered a bamboo grove in his neighborhood had mysteriously transformed into a flat vacant lot, he wondered where the sparrows that once inhabited the area would go. The bamboo grove, which was hidden behind the home of a large land owner, was cut down as part of large-scale development.

Takahata began to think about where animals and other life went when their habitats were destroyed due to construction of such things as golf courses and new towns. From these ponderings emerged Heisei Tanuki-Gassen Pon Poko (TheBattle of Raccoon Dogs in the Heisei Period), the story of some raccoon dogs who band together to lash out against excessive development.

"The film is not so much fiction as a documentary of the destiny of the raccoon dogs as seen through their own eyes," Takahata told The Yomiuri Shimbun.

Takahata worked with producer Hayao Miyazaki on the project; it is their latest in a series of collaborations. The pair, who are known as giants of Japanese animated film, have created a series of successful animated feature-length movies, including Kaze no Tani no Nausicaae, Majo no Takkyubin and Omoide Poroporo.

The story is set Tama mountains in western Tokyo, an area that underwent large-scale development in the 1960s. In particular, land was cleared so that houses and apartments could be erected to alleviate housing shortages in the Tokyo metropolitan area. Many hills and mountains in the area were deforested and leveled, driving the animals out of the area.

In the film, the raccoon dogs--who lived peacefully in the mountains until man brought his shovel to the area--realize that their life is being seriously threatened. So the animals join together to fight the land development. According to many Japanese legends, raccoon dogs have the ability to transform into other objects. For example, in one famous story a raccoon dog changed into an iron tea kettle. Takahata's animated raccoon dogs use special powers to transform into humans, ghosts and other objects.

The transformed raccoon dogs begin to violently fight the people. Risking life and limb, the raccoon dogs don't meet with as much success as they had hoped.

Japanese people and raccoon dogs have coexisted peacefully since ancient times. This harmonious relationship is depicted in many folk tales, legends, sayings and songs. Many quotations and episodes based on these stories from folk culture are included in the movie to illustrate that the destiny of the raccoon dogs is the same as the destiny of humans.

The film is not being screened with English subtitles. Although the dialogue and narration is an integral part of Heisei Tanuki-Gassen Pon Poko, the film can also be enjoyed for its vivid pictures, natural movements of the characters and large-scale images. Some live-action footage and computer graphics have been effectively inserted into the animation. * * *

The film opens today at over 200 Toho theaters across the nation, including Nichigeki Plaza in Yurakucho, Tokyo.

Back toIndex   

5). Chicago Sun-Times

June 11, 1995, SUNDAY, Late Sports Final Edition


By Roger Ebert


Q. In one of your articles from Cannes, you wrote about " Pom Poko, " saying: "This Japanese family film about cute animals is not likely to make a sale in the American market, since the secret weapon of the raccoons is their ability to make their testicles grow so large they can crush their opponents."

If that's all you have to say about it, that's really too bad. The film is directed by Isao Takahata, who is the world's greatest living director of animation. His movies tend to be about serious subjects. " Pom Poko" treats the subject of environmental conservation with humor and wisdom. The secret weapon of the raccoons is their ability (as in Japanese legend) to change shape, which they do to frighten away the men who are trying to change their forest home into a condo development. The raccoons change into a number of things, such as other animals , ghosts and people.

But yes, they do in a couple of scenes attack people with their enlarged testicles, and that would make showing the film commercially in the U.S. a problem. I saw it at the San Francisco Film Festival, where the children in the audience didn't seem to have any trouble with it.

Robert Forman, San Francisco

A. The Japanese are more open in their attitude toward human plumbing than we are. So are children, who would probably be delighted by the raccoon's choice of weapons, if it were not for their dreary parents.

Back toIndex   

6). Star Tribune (Minneapolis, MN)

July 6, 1995, Saint Paul Edition

Animated Japanese film unlikely to be U.S. success

By Chuck Shepherd

In a May column, film critic Roger Ebert reported on the popular Japanese animated film " Pompoko, " which features a family of cute badgerlike animals, but said the film would not likely be successful in America. The badgers' secret weapon is an ability to make their testicles grow large so that they can crush opponents. Said a Japanese film fan, "The Japanese are more open about bodily parts." He said kids in Japan find the secret weapon "hilarious."


Back toIndex   


June 30, 1995 Friday, METRO


By DNA Smith, Bat Signals not a beeper


And now for this weeks topic: cultural conundrums. Last month, movie critic Roger Ebert wrote about a popular childrens animated movie called Pompoko, which features a family of cute badgerlike animals.

Apparently, the cartoon badgers have the ability to grow their testicles so large, they can crush their opponents.

Can you imagine American parents taking their kids to a movie about big, furry cartoon badger testicles? Oh, sure.

I cant imagine it even being released in this country. When it comes to dealing with body parts, there arent many people more hung-up than Americans.

Heres whats on my mind lemme know what you think:

The majority of American parents would probably be up in arms if a cartoon like that were shown in this country. Duh.

And many groups would say that showing body parts to children would cause psychological damage or somesuch, while some might oppose the movie because they say its in bad taste. Yet, Asian kids see this stuff all the time, and the Japanese dont seem to be raising perverts and sex offenders.

Questions: If you were a parent, would you take your child to this movie? Do you think this kind of stuff is bad for kids?

Back toIndex   


July 7, 1995 Friday, METRO


By DNA Smith; The disease-infested monkey

Last week we told you about Pompoko, a Japanese animated movie for children.

The movies cute, badgeresque heroes have the ability to inflate their testicles to mammoth proportions and then use them to crush their enemies.

This definitely aint Pocahontas.

We got a lot of calls from shocked and outraged parents (Whoa! Big surprise, there...), but these were the calls I liked the bestest.

I wouldnt let my child see a movie (like that). Thats nasty! I wouldnt even watch it, and Im 16!

Kristine Newsome

Oak Ridge High

I wouldnt take kids to see that movie. I dont think young kids should be exposed to those kinds of things. And I dont want to have to answer all the embarrassing questions.

Staci Biela, Orlando

This movie doesnt seem any different than the Power Rangers. And parents let their children see that, even though it turns them into hyperactive ninja-type lunatics. Hollywood is destroying childrens minds with movies like this. And this badger movies no different.

Lorynn Evans, Oviedo High


Back toIndex   

9). Variety

June 19, 1995 - June 25, 1995

ANIME TERRITORY; Japan toons boom worldwide


In a land where commuter trains are packed day and night with men and women of all ages reading comic books of every description, it's hardly surprising that Japanese-style animation, known as "anime," is considered serious entertainment for adults and children alike. The art form is so popular that there is even a thriving amateur animation and cartoon industry in this country, drawing an estimated half-million fans to two major amateur cartoon markets a year in Tokyo, where enthusiasts buy, sell and trade homemade product.

And Japan's professional animation industry is booming. In recent years, anime feature films have become the lifeblood of a lackluster local movie industry, consistently pulling in more box office revenue than Japanese-made live-action films. The crossover between TV and movies has also ensured that Japan continues to churn out between 30 and 40 anime films and TV programs a week, with hit TV cartoon series providing themes for several serial anime feature films.

Mainstream Japanese anime is still full of muscular, snub-nosed male characters inspired by cutesy, wide-eyed heroines, the fearless "Astro Boys," talking animals and Disney-style heroes all created by the late Japanese animation master, Osamu Tezuka.

Tezuka, sometimes dubbed the "Walt Disney of Japan," created "The Jungle Emperor" in the '50s, which inspired the hit animation series "Kimba, the White Lion," and sparked Japan's post-war comic book boom.

Since then, the increasing diversity of Japanese animation audiences has generated a variety of distinctive styles. The tough but beautiful schoolgirl heroines of "Sailor Moon" and fluffy little characters like those in "Hello Kitty," a hugely popular title in Japan, have spawned entire merchandising industries, movies and books.

At the same time, the growth of Japan's video rental market and anime cinema audiences through the '80s has also encouraged a more violent and sexually explicit style of animation, aimed at adults.

But in critical circles, it was the heady international success of "Akira" in the late 1980s, the apocalyptic sci-fi anime feature, that made foreign and domestic anime enthusiasts sit up and take notice. It also triggered a new growth in adult anime.

These are cartoons for the sophisticated viewer, often spiked with graphic violence and heavy themes of death and destruction. Many of the more popular titles exploit a sci-fi, futuristic bent that appeals to a particular core audience of technophiles.

But even within the adult male market, there are quirks in popular Japanese tastes in anime, and certainly less extreme fare remains the most popular anime form. Among the highest-rated TV programs for men in the early '90s, according to Nielsen surveys, were "Sazaesan," the cartoon adventures of an average Japanese family, and "Chibi Marukochan," about a cute kid.

Cuteness still prevails in the latest mainstream anime hits to draw large adult audiences, including the top-grossing Japanese film of 1994, " Ponpoko, " featuring ecologically aware raccoons. But the themes of such anime features, even as they play to family auds, have become more sophisticated.

"Raihantsuri no Uta" (Song of the Pear Tree), a feature released last year for children, tackles the sensitive subject of wartime excesses in China.

In terms of style and popularity, Tezuka's mantle has gone to the most successful duo working in Japanese anime: Isao Takahata, who scripted and directed " Ponpoko, " and his collaborator, Hayao Miyazaki. Working together since the '60s at Studio Ghibli, the pair has been behind many hit anime features.

Both admire Disney's animation classics, but see themselves on a very different track.

"In the U.S., some subjects are thought suitable for animation while others aren't. In Japan, we don't draw such distinctions," Takahata explains.

Mainstream Japanese anime, however, remains dominated by the three major studios: Shochiku, Toho and Toei.

The majors have stepped up competition over anime films based on each season's hit TV cartoon shows.

The domination of the majors until recently left little room for so-called fringe animators.

The success of "Akira" altered that situation "a little," according to anime director and robot designer Koichi Ohata, who created the "Genocyber" series.

Ohata says "Akira" broadened the genre to encompass everything from hardcore science to violent "live action" and even pornographic scenarios. "But you don't need spaceships. The definition has been too shallow. Sci-fi's in the creator's mind."

Helped by surging interest from overseas markets, particularly from the U.S., where Ohata has already gained a small but enthusiastic cult following, young filmmakers and artists are taking anime into cyberspace.

Back toIndex   

10). The Hollywood Reporter

November 11, 1994, Friday

Japan picks ani 'Poko' for Oscar derby

By Hy Hollinger

Japan has selected " Pom Poko, " a feature-length animated film, as its entry for consideration as best foreign-language film in the upcoming Academy Awards competition.

It is believed this is the first time an animated film has been been submitted in the foreign-language category, a spokeswoman for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences said.

Walt Disney Prods.' "Beauty and the Beast" was a nominee for best picture honors in the 1992 Oscar race. Produced by Tokuma Shoten Publishing Co. in association with Japan's leading animation studio, Studio Ghibli, " Pom Poko" is Japan's third highest grossing animated film, following Disney's "Aladdin" and "Porco Rosso," also from Ghibli.

Since its Tokyo premiere on July 16, it played in 201 theaters on the Toho circuit, grossing $ 52 million throughout the country.

The film has an environmental twist. In " Pom Poko" a village of racoons is being threatened by an encroaching residential development. The raccoons fight back in amusing and entertaining ways. The Japanese are said to have a traditional facination with racoons, which are thought to sometimes transform themselves into humans.

World-acclaimed animator Hayao Miyazaki, hailed as the "Walt Disney of Japan," is the godfather of " Pom Poko. "

Back toIndex   

11). Los Angeles Times

January 31, 1995, Tuesday, Home Edition

By ART BERMAN , Arts and entertainment reports from The Times, national and international news services and the nation's press.


Aid for Kobe: A premiere screening of Japan's Oscar entry has been moved up six months, so it can benefit Kobe earthquake victims, according to Julian Myers, publicist for the animated " Pom Poko. " Those attending the free Thursday night showing at the Writers Guild Theatre in Beverly Hills will be asked to sign a friendship message and contribute to earthquake relief. Myers described the film as a "drama of environmental dislocation" based on a legend about raccoons. The film was the highest-grossing Japanese feature in Japan in 1994 but has no distribution arrangements in the United States, which is why no premiere had been scheduled until now, Myers said. He said some tickets may be available at the door.


Back toIndex   

12). Variety

August 29, 1994 - September 4, 1994

Summer B.O. goes out like a 'Lion'



In Japan, animated saga "Heisei Tanukigassen Ponpoko" has amassed a phenomenal $ 31.5 million in 40 days on 200 screens. Distrib Toho believes it will play through October and is shooting for $ 50 million. One rival distrib said " Ponpoko" has been inflated by the common practice of "papering"-- big companies buying stacks of tickets for employees. "The Lion King" stood at $ 22.7 million after 33 days, tracking 5% below "Aladdin." Elsewhere "The Lion King" is running 50% up on the earlier pic.


Back toIndex   

13). Daily Variety

June 7, 1995 Wednesday

Czech 'Repeat' wins top prize at toon fest


#ANNECY, France --"Repeat," a short fiction film by Czech animator Michaela Pavlatova, has won the Grand Prize of the Annecy 1995 Intl. Animated Film Festival.

Chosen from 220 short and feature-length fiction, advertising, educational and industrial movies that featured all genres of animation, from traditionally drawn and painted cartoons, clay animation and sand to 3-D computer constructions of light and color, "Repeat" is a nine-minute story of human routine in colored shadings and without dialogue.

The 35th annual festival, which for the first time featured a special jury for TV animation, ran from May 30 through Sunday.

"Bob's Birthday," a British-Canadian, cel-drawn comedy about a dentist's ennui from Alison Snowden and David Fine, won the short film prize. The pic was this year's Oscar winner for animated short. "Heisei tanuki gassen pompoko, " a Japanese pro-environmental story of badgers from Isao Takahata, won the feature film prize.


Back toIndex   

14). Mainichi Daily News

April 17, 1994, Sunday

Group in west Tokyo fights to save badgers

A citizens group in western Tokyo, disturbed over the number of badgers killed on local roads, embarked six years ago on an ecological survey of the small mammals. "The badgers' deaths are the result of the deteriorating environment around the mountain villages," says the head of the Badger Action Committee, Noriko Kuwahara. "We have an obligation to protect living creatures being squeezed out of their mountain habitats by development (projects)."

An appeal framed in more or less those words wrested from Machida City authorities a commitment to build passageways under roads for the badgers. Kuwahara's group is also behind a cartoon film slated for release this summer called ''The Heisei Badger Battle Pompoko.'' Keeping an eye out for telltale signs of badgers like claw marks on trees, droppings and pawprints, the Badger Action Committee charts the movements of badgers and other small creatures throughout the area. "The hills (around here) are living museums," says Kuwahara.

If Machida City itself is on its way to completely becoming a Tokyo bedroom community, the nearby Tama Hills retain something of their forest character. As part of its survey, the committee is mapping the movements and habitats of wild animals in a 37-hectare forest in the eastern area of the Tama district.

Kuwahara's particular interest in badgers goes back six years, when her daughter, then a high school student, noticed one that had been killed on the road by a passing vehicle. "It was the first time I'd ever seen a wild badger, " Mrs. Kuwahara recalls. "I thought, What are badgers doing in the city?"

As she and her friends considered the question more closely, they became intrigued by the badger's way of life, which the observers viewed with an odd combination of amusement and pathos. They observed the mammals setting up ''squatter communities'' in roadside ditches, scavenging in garbage cans, and gnawing at rubber hoses and plastic bags. Every year some badgers bred in parks, scarcely suspecting how they charmed their human observers as they shared their meals en famille.

Roughly 60 badgers a year are killed on local roads, according to the Machida Recycling Culture Center, which disposes of the carcasses. That represents a three-fold increase over the past six years. Since the badgers' natural habitats are located in the mountains near villages, they have been especially hit hard by development.

Kuwahara's group has posted "Attention: Badger Crossing" signs in spots where many have been killed, and has appealed to the city to take further measures. As a result, the city government last year earmarked 800,000 yen for the construction of two underground passageways to allow badgers to cross roads safely. The passageways, which are 9.5 meters long, 45 centimeters high and 45 centimeters wide, have been completed recently.

The committee is enlarging its field of operation. The cartoon '' Heisei Badger Battle'' is the creation of filmmaker Isamu Takahata of "Omohide Poroporo" fame. Takahata's inspiration came from the committee, whose work he has followed for the past year and a half. The plot focuses on a group of badgers who challenge their human oppressors to battle in a bid to put a stop to the development projects that left them homeless. However, the pro- badger activists are running into some grumbling, if not outright opposition, from local residents who resent tax money being spent on the badger crossings and wonder what's so special about badgers anyway. Farmers in particular see them as more of a pest than a helpless victim -- they attack corn, tomato and chickens.

Yoshimitsu Sato, 67, a farmer in Machida City, complains that many of his chickens have been bitten in the neck by badgers. He has caught some of the culprits in traps. No one can accuse the Sato and his wife Kame of bearing a grudge, though -- they have adopted three of the badgers they caught.

Plans are in the works to develop the Tama Hills forest mapped by the committee. Informal polls of area residents show most would prefer that the natural setting be preserved. "But," says Kuwahara, "the forests are gradually disappearing and being replaced by houses." The fact is, she adds, "If the environment is no good for badgers, it's not very livable for humans either."

Kuwahara fears for the badgers' future. She hopes they have one -- not in just cartoons, but in the real world as well.

Back toIndex   

15). The Daily Yomiuri

December 9, 1995, Saturday

Secretive animals at the zoo

By Kevin Short ; Daily Yomiuri

Growing up in Brooklyn, I came to love zoos at a very early age. The Prospect Park Zoo was just a short walk from our brownstone and the Bronze Zoo and Central Park Zoo were only a subway ride away. My dad and I spent many a day watching and learning about the animals.

Today, zoos are often at the center of controversies. Animal rights activists criticize the small, constricted cages and also the very concept of putting live animals on display; professional biologists often point out that zoo-stock programs, which keep and breed endangered species, play a vital role in preserving biological diversity. For me, zoos offer a chance to observe and enjoy animals that one rarely gets to see in the wild.

One small zoo I often visit is the Ichikawa Municipal Zoo in Chiba Prefecture. This zoo has none of the large mammals--elephants, giraffes, rhinoceroses, lions or tigers--that are typically a zoo's most popular attractions. In fact, the largest wild animal there is a magnificent but slightly aggressive male mandril baboon. On the other hand, the Ichikawa Zoo is a fine place to familiarize oneself with two typical Japanese forest animals, the badger and the tanuki.

The tanuki is perhaps Japan's best known mammal. Stylized pot-bellied versions of this medium-size member of the dog family stand in front of shops and homes. Fairy tales and legends concerning the tanuki abound. These mythical tanuki can change their shape at will and often take on human form to create some kind of mischief. Every child can draw or at least recognize the familiar round face with dark eye patches. Still, tanuki are secretive, nocturnal animals and very few people have actually seen one in the wild. The tanuki is found throughout the main islands of Japan, as well as the Korean Peninsula and the Northeast Asian mainland. Habitats range from mountain slopes down to the outskirts of towns and cities. Some claim that tanuki have been introduced and are now breeding in Eastern Europe.

The tanuki has always felt at home in the countryside. In the past tanuki managed to live in harmony with farming people. Although tanuki have never been above stealing a potato or two from a farmer's garden, the damage was never that great. One grandmother that I talked to said that she simply planted a little more than was actually needed, thus making allowances for the tanuki's minor thievery.

The tanuki's main food base has been the rich deciduous forests and woodlots that provide a variety of wild fruits, berries, tubers, insects and small animals. In recent years, however, these forests and woodlots have been replaced by sterile plantations of cryptomeria, cedar or larch. Deprived of their natural food base, tanuki have taken more and more to raiding crops and in many areas are now considered a major nuisance. On the outskirts of towns and cities, where native forests have all been razed for development or replaced by plantations, tanuki have been forced to forage around garbage collection points. Many of these animals are unhealthy and afflicted with a mange that causes their fur to rot off. For a humorous portrait of the trials and tribulations of these urban tanuki, pick up a copy of Hayao Miyazaki's animated movie " Heisei Tanuki Gassen" at your local video rental store.

The badger is often confused with the tanuki, especially by translators of Japanese folk legends and children's stories, but is actually quite a separate animal. In fact, while the tanuki is a member of the dog family, the badger is kin to the weasel.

Badgers are even more secretive than tanuki and tend to live further away from towns and villages. Thus the badger is usually the first to disappear when the natural environment deteriorates. In my area of northern Chiba Prefecture, tanuki are still plentiful but no badger sightings have been reported for more than a decade.

The Japanese badger is a sub-species or local variety of the common Eurasian badger. In Japan, this fierce, sharp-clawed fighter is found on Honshu, Shikoku and Kyushu, but not on Hokkaido. The badger's body is shorter, heavier and more powerful than the tanuki. Its tracks show five toe-prints around a central footpad.

Badgers are also omnivorous but usually include more meat in their diet than do tanuki. They use their sharp claws to dig out mice, moles and other burrowing rodents, but are also known to eat snakes, frogs, insects and bird's eggs, as well as wild roots and berries. Badgers give birth in underground burrows.

Many people don't even realize that the badger and tanuki are different animals. An alert or lucky hiker may run across them, or at least their signs, in the mountains and countryside. Such encounters in the wild are, of course, far and away the finest way to experience wildlife. In the meantime, the Ichikawa Zoo gives you an easy chance to see them up close and compare.

The Ichikawa Municipal Zoo can be reached by bus or on foot from Omachi Station on the Hokuso Line. The entrance fee is 400 yen for adults.

Back toIndex   
Compiled by Ryoko Toyama
(Spelling and other mistakes in the articles are kept as they are)

[Blue Ribbon Icon] This page is brought to you by Team Ghiblink.