Circa 1880


With a metal casing enclosing a plaque with a depiction of the priest or his novice subduing the transforming half-raccoon dog half-tea kettle, with an old label to the back, signed.


​L. approx. 4 cm

Private collection, United Kingdom
With us, pre-2021


Bunbuku Chagama (分福茶釜 or 文福茶釜), literally "Bunbuku tea-kettle" is a Japanese folktale or fairy tale about a tanuki (raccoon dog), that uses its shapeshifting powers to reward its rescuer for his kindness.

At a temple called Morin-ji in Kōzuke Province (now Gunma Prefecture), the master priest (abbot) owns a chagama (tea kettle). When the priest sets the kettle on a hearth, the kettle sprouts a head and a tail (or legs as well), and turns into a half-raccoon dog, half tea-kettle creature.  

The priest and his novices subdue it, and since it reverts to the form of an ordinary kettle, they sell it to a travelling tinker or rag-peddler. The kettle reveals its half-tanuki form to the peddler, and the merchant acts on a friend's advice to command the beast to turn tricks, or, is persuaded by the tanuki itself, which bargains to perform acrobatics in exchange for being well-treated. The peddler agrees to neither put it over a hot flame nor stow it away in a stuffy box and share what food he has.

The man sets up a circus-like roadside attraction and charges admission for people to see the tea-kettle badger walking a tightrope to the tune of music. The man becomes wealthy and returns the kettle to Morin-ji temple.

Manju netsuke depicting the fairytale bunbuku chagama