Many local myths surround the ancient Morin-ji temple in Tatebayashi, and what they all have in common is a teapot and a raccoon dog.
One legend tells the tale of a monk named Shukaku who lived in the temple and had a special kama or teapot, that never ran out of water. One day, his fellow monk finds out he is actually a tanuki, a Japanese raccoon dog, which had received a sermon from Buddha and transformed himself into a monk using magic. He put a spell on the kama, too. Shukaku leaves the temple immediately after his fellow monk notices what he actually is, leaving his kama behind.
A similar folktale is called Bunbuku Chagama, meaning “bubbling over with happiness”. In it, a kindly man sets a tanuki caught in a trap free, and to thank him, the raccoon dog changes into a teapot and asks the man to sell it for some money. A monk buys the kama and attempts to boil water in it. The kama screams “Ouch” and turns into a half-kama, half-tanuki creature, and runs back to his saviour. The two stay together and make money by displaying the kama-tanuki as a roadshow attraction.
In honor of these stories, the Japanese temple, built in 1426, is decorated with a row of 21 tanuki statues to welcome visitors, along with a smiling kama-tanuki. The temple also has a small museum, featuring the legendary kama and a collection of tanuki-related items.
Know Before You Go
It is 10 minutes on foot from Morinji-mae Station (Tobu-Isesaki Line).