Ruth: There are moments everyday when I am struck by just how different Japan is from any other country I have visited. It goes beyond their resistance to global trends like chairs and beds, and the interesting coexistence of modernity and ancient traditions. Take this cute little creature, the tanuki. Do not be fooled by the monks garb and big innocent eyes, as I was. This character is a shape shifting little trouble maker with enormous magical balls. I kid you not, I couldn’t make this stuff up if I tried! You can’t see his magic bags because he is trying to pass as a monk, and has them hidden under that bib or diaper thingy.

Tanukis have been a part of Japanese folk culture for centuries. They are notorious for drumming their bellies in the forest  to confuse walkers and cause them lose their way. But it’s the stories of their testicles that truly left me speechless. Whether it’s boating or battle tanukis have it covered with their endlessly stretchy scrotums.

Now while our western sensibilities might make us squirm at this graphic weirdness, in Japan these are popular stories. There is even a children’s song about the tanuki’s swinging balls. I know you won’t believe me, so here is the link:

Tanukis are actual animals that are known as “raccoon-dogs”.  They are less well endowed than their mythical cousins. 
We are spending a rest day in Matsuyama so that we can see the sights of this lovely city. After a four temple approach, I stopped to bathe at the Dogo Onsen, the oldest onsen in Japan.  It has been in use for 3,000 years.
Matsuyama is also home to a wonderful castle which we explored this morning.  While at the castle I encountered a woman in a tour group wearing a full traditional kimono. I later read that it is a popular activity in Matsuyama to rent kimonos and wander about in them.   
After visiting the art gallery to see an Escher exhibit I met another three ladies dressed in kimonos. They kindly let me take their picture. 

There are Haiku boxes all over Matsuyama where anyone can submit their own poem for adjudication. Here is our contribution:

Foggy morning walk

A hairy Tanuki beats

The henro is lost

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