In a quiet park in a small harbor town on the east coast of the Japanese island of Shikoku, a 15-foot-high concrete statue of a giant, lantern-carrying, raccoon dog, known in Japan as a tanuki, towers over locals playing croquet from its perch on a large rock. The statue is of a little-known Japanese animal called a tanuki, often referred to as a raccoon dog in English.
If a tourist looks puzzled enough, one of the local athletes may come over and demonstrate the unusual features of this public art installation. If you stand right in front of the tanuki and clap your hands as if praying at a Shinto shrine, a motion-activated sensor will turn on pumps that create a large waterfall cascading over the cliff behind the larger-than-life mammal.
While small pottery figures of tanuki are common throughout Japan, usually with a straw hat and jug of liquor outside drinking establishments, the town of Komatsushima takes tanuki statuary to monumental heights, with hundreds of tanuki figures of all sizes throughout the town. These are not your typical mischievous boozing tanuki—they are generally dressed up as warriors in shogun helmets and samurai armor.
Apparently, long, long ago, a run-of-the-mill mischievous tanuki had been captured and was being tormented by some unkind children when it was rescued by a famous general passing by on the road. In gratitude for being rescued, the tanuki changed its devious ways, promoted kindness towards all, and itself became a famous general, known as Kincho. Kincho led local armies to a number of victories, earning it this unusual enshrinement at the center of the city park.
Know Before You Go
From in front of Minami-Komatsushima Station, walk ~850 feet ESE along Route 178, then make an acute turn toward the NNW and proceed northward for about 1/4 mile, remaining on Route 178, over the bridge across the Kandase River. The main part of the park will be to your left after the first traffic light after crossing the bridge. Wander around either side of the office building to find this unique motion-activated giant tanuki waterfall exhibit behind the building on the SE side of the dirt playing field.