Heinlad is a Tanuki (pronounced "tah-nuh-kee")
A Tanuki is NOT just a mythical animal - they are real.
Tanuki look a bit like fat foxes, with short legs and black and gray fur.
They grow up to 60 cm. long and have distinctive stripes of black fur under their eyes, a bit like pandas.
Real tanuki are not so easy to find, but are quite abundant from Honshu to Kyushu. They live in lowlands, forests and mountain valleys (up to 2,000 meters in altitude) and sometimes come into gardens looking for food.
Unfortunately for them, this can bring them into contact with dogs, from which they can catch dangerous diseases.
Tanuki are the classic omnivores, eating rodents, lizards, frogs, fruit, berries, insects and other invertebrates, including slugs and snails.
They can even stomach poisonous toads, apparently producing huge amounts of saliva that dilutes the toad's poison.
Tanuki don't usually carry bottles of sake, but the statues are correct about their biology in one important detail: testes size
Rather than being used as an impromptu drum, as Japanese folklore would have it, the scrotum is large because of high levels of competition among males for females.
This means that they copulate very frequently -- and need large testes. Also, according to folklore, tanuki can change shape at will.
Despite their playful nature, tanuki are wild animals and should never be kept chained up.
In Japanese lore, Tanuki have supernatural powers and great physical strength far above normal: Magical Racoon-like Dog with Shape-Shifting Powers and Illusion
Modern-Day God of Gluttony, Boozing (hence Heinlad's bottle of Sake, a very potent rice wine), and Restauranteurs
Possessing a passionate love for sake, they can at times become violent or unpleasant drunks, or they can become unpleasant when deprived of sake for too long.
Although they're generally well-regarded, some stories paint tanuki in a decidedly unsavory manner, beasts to be avoided at best.
Still others speak of marvelous benevolence and incredible secrets learned from tanuki friends, who wish only to preserve the natural beauty of the world.
Tanuki are respected and, to some, feared.
But to others they're adored and cherished as cute forest friends who wish for only the best. It is unclear as to what tanuki goals really are.
Perhaps, like humans, they are as individual as grains of sand and do not all share the same aspirations.
Indeed, while there are reports of a close-knit tanuki society, they all seem to act very independently.
Perhaps one day we will learn the truth directly from a tanuki.
A male tanuki's most striking feature is undoubtedly his immense scrotum, which is sometimes mistaken for his equally rotund belly.
Tanuki may use this as a drum, to produce confusion or illusions. The beat can mesmerize others as well, and care must be taken.
Sake is said to pacify even the most unsociable of tanuki, and if they choose to take someone into confidence, great wisdom can be learned from them.
Did you know? One of Mario's various suits in Super Mario Brothers 3 (Nintendo) is a "Tanooki" suit, which gives him the ability to turn himself into stone at will, and also to fly using his tail like his Raccoon suit.
The Heinlad toy has the ability to stand upright, like its mythical counterpart, or on all fours like the real live Tanuki animal
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