The fox and tanuki (raccoon dog) often appear in Japanese folklore and legends.
However, did you know that while there are almost no fox legends in Shikoku, there are plenty of tanuki legends?
According to one theory, when Kobo-Daishi founded the 88 temples on sacred grounds he drove away the foxes that were always up to no good, but left the tanuki as they somehow just cannot be detested!
Also, it was said that if an iron bridge ever stands on Shikoku, the fox that was driven away at that time might come back…
An iron bridge would mean the Great Seto Bridge? Or maybe the Setouchi Shimanami Kaido Expressway? That would mean that they might have already come back…
By the way, many tanuki appear in the Ghibli film “Pom Poko”, the three elders of which are from Shikoku:
– Kinchou, from Kinchou shrine located in Komatsushima city, Tokushima prefecture.
– Tasaburouhagetanuki who likes Yajima Island, Kagawa prefecture.
– Inugamigyoubu from Matsuyama city, Ehime prefecture.
This time we will introduce the tanuki supreme commander Inugamigyoubu, who appears in the three great Japanese legends of tanuki.
Inugamigyoubu is a supernatural tanuki who was very famous in ancient times, so much so that he has the largest presence within the three great Japanese legends about tanuki.
In the age of Emperor Tenji (668 – 672), tanuki started living in this area and began to protect Matsuyama castle.
At that time, tanuki gave birth to a total of 808 offspring!
Gyoubu was said to have been the supreme commander to these tanuki, and to have had the most supernatural powers in the whole of Shikoku.
However this Inugamigyoubu was involved in internal disputes, and in order to protect its comrades, the other tanuki, Gyoubu became a member of the conspiring rebels and ended up being shut in a cave.
It is said that Gyoubu was eventually pardoned because of his long service to the Matsuyama feudal lord. The tanuki lived peacefully with the people of the village, and are now worshipped here at Yamaguchi Reishin.
It’s a legend, but even now the tanuki is valued and worshipped like this.
Japan is rife with folklore and legends, but Ehime is a treasure chest of legends.
I have visited over 1,000 legendary places in Ehime, such as shrines and temples. I recommend taking a tour of locations found in legends – you might make new discoveries!
How about setting out on a tour of places found in legends?
Location: 135 Kutanimachi, Matsuyama city
Contact: 089-963-0994 (Sakamoto Community Center)
Homepage: http://iyokannet.jp/spot/detail/place_id/4193/ (Japanese, but some content in English tho not related to Yamaguchi Reishi)
Setouchi Finder Photo-writer: Maki Oohashi
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