While most visitors to Akihabara get caught up—and why wouldn't you—in the hustle and bustle of otaku central, there is more to meet the eye in Electric Town than the latest and not-so-greatest electronic gadgets, maid cafes, cosplay, and anime geek-fandom.
Just south of Akihabara station, across the Kanda river (accessed by a small pedestrian bridge hidden between camera duty-free shop and a Jonathon's restaurant) is a small oasis of calm in an otherwise over-stimulated area. Tha Yanagimori Shrine, built in the 17th century, is dedicated the prankster with testicales of beach-ball proportions—the tanuki.
The tanuki, commonly referred to as a "raccoon dog" in English, has been beloved by the Japanese for centuries and is common throughout the islands. A good natured prankster, he often shows up in folk tales as a begging monk and is commonly pictured resting cups and other items on his most characteristic feature: a pair of outlandishly large and magical testicles that can transform into any tool or disguise needed.
The tanuki is associated with luck and magic and his kintama, or "golden balls," are familiar site.
The Yanagimori Shrine is a quiet and reflective garden amid Akihabara's neon new-tech rush—a good place to take a break, eat a small bento lunch and perhaps enjoy a chuckle as you reflect and remember to not take life quite so seriously.
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