The animal has been significant in Japanese folklore since ancient times and is reputed to be mischievous, jolly, a master of disguise and shapeshifting, but is somewhat gullible and absentminded.
The tanuki were originally deified as governing all things in nature, but after the arrival of Buddhism, animals other than envoys of the gods (foxes, snakes, etc.) lost their divinity and were seen as evil or as monsters. However, since the tanuki of Japan do not have a fearsome image, their image took the form of a more humorous kind of monster, and even in folktales like Kachi-kachi Yama, and Bunbuku Chagama, they often played the part of foolish animals
- In spite of its name and appearance, the Tanuki is not related to the raccoon or badger.
- In some regions of Japan, Tanuki are reputed to have abilities similar to those attributed to Kitsune spirits they can shapeshift into objects, people, and possess human beings.
- There is the saying that "the fox has seven disguises, the tanuki has eight". The tanuki is thus superior to the fox in its disguises, but unlike the fox, which changes its form for the sake of tempting people, tanuki do so to fool people and make them seem stupid. There is also the theory that they simply like to change their form.