Simanaitis Says

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THE UBIQUITOUS Hello Kitty and other happy cats are familiar bits of Japanese culture, but dogs are highly regarded there as well. I have several examples of canine folk art based on a dog composed of paper-maché, an inu hariko, 犬張子.

The dog (Japanese: inu, 犬) is believed to have been domesticated in Japan as early as the Jomon period, 10,000 B.C. During the Edo era, Tokugawa Tsunayoshi, who ruled from 1680 to 1709, issued Edicts on Compassion for Living Things, in which dogs received special protection. Tsunayoshi was born in a Year of the Dog, and his adversaries knew him as the Inu-Kubō, the Dog Shogun.


My Koshigaya inu hariko.

Koshigaya is about 20 miles northwest of Tokyo in Saitama Prefecture. This prefecture is home to Honda’s vast Saitama factory; Koshigaya is known for producing hollow paper-maché objects, among them daruma dolls modeled after Zen Buddhism founder Bodhidharma.

The inu hariko is a protector of children and talisman for easy childbirth. As such it’s a popular toy for kids and gift for expectant mothers.


A denden daiko, でんでん太鼓, toy pellet drum.

My denden daiko has an inu hariko on one face, what appears to be a saru or red-faced monkey on the other, both topped by a rattle in the shape of a smaller drum. It’s operated by twirling its handle so the two swinging pellets hit the drum faces.

I searched Google Images to learn more of the jaunty red-face (and red-butt) creature. Like the dog, the monkey is one of the Chinese/Japanese Zodiac symbols (in total order, the twelve are monkey, rooster, dog, boar, rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse and sheep).

By the way, to figure out your animal, convert your birth year to mod 12 (i.e., the remainder after dividing it by 12). Count in the list above, starting with 0 for the monkey. Sample: Kids born this year are “10 mod 12” and hence born in a Year of the Horse.


A Japanese earpick, the inset showing its business end.

The earpick, also known as ear scoop or ear spoon, is an earlier era’s version of cotton swabs. Part of western culture until the early 19th century, these hygienic devices continue to be popular in the Far East. (Don’t try one at home, kids. The best advice is a doctor’s “Fit nothing in your ear smaller than your thumb.”)

I’ll consider mine to be a miniature denden daiko.


An inu hariko has been the subject of a Japanese postage stamp.

To close on another note of research, I acknowledge, a website of Namiko Abe, Japanese language expert. At,  I learned that Japanese dogs bark “wan-wan.” What’s more, she provided a link to another of her essays offering a list of Japanese animal sounds.

Abe-sama also poses a dog joke, entirely in Japanese. I must brush up on my Nohon-go. ds

© Dennis Simanaitis,, 2014

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This entry was posted on September 8, 2014 by in Just Trippin' and tagged , , .
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