By Peter Lin
Tokyo Metro Yūrakuchō Station has been in operation since 1974 and as of 2011 was the fifteenth busiest station on the Tokyo Metro. It provides access to the Yūrakuchō Line and the Hibiya Line, Chiyoda Line, and Toei Mita Line via Hibiya Staion. Nine entrances and exits allow easy access to the station and the employers are willing to provide assistance to newcomers like me who tend to get lost. Most of the signs are written in English, and Tokyo Metro lines are identifiable by color: gold for Yūrakuchō, silver for Hibiya, green for Chiyoda, and blue for Toei Mita. It is easy to navigate the station, and the frequency of arriving trains ensures you get on your way with little wait.
While traveling, I have noticed that this busy station houses more than the sounds of busy feet. Near the ticket barrier, closest to the JR station side, there is a peculiar looking bunch of statues. A sign above it reads “Ponta’s Place”. Ponta is the raccoon statue located in the center. There are also other animals, all looking strange, but somehow luring. The animals stand around a miniature red shrine gate and seem to be having a party.
A gentleman who was standing next to me tilted his head to the side when I asked him if he knew what it all meant. “The tanuki (raccoon dog) stands for good fortune,” he said. “The owl symbolizes wealth, and frogs, a safe trip home (the word for frog, kaeru, can also mean to go home although the kanji is different). Other than that, it's just a weird collection,” he said and laughed as he snapped a picture on his phone.
The mystery of the animal gathering is left unknown, but it is a popular spot for people to meet up as it is very easy to find. Ponta the raccoon has been in Yūrakuchō Station for 25 years and will continue to protect the station form any misfortune. Stop by and snap a picture, and take some luck with you as you venture through Yūrakuchō and onto your next destination. Who knows? Maybe raccoon Ponta has some magic left to spare.
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