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Wednesday, July 21, 2010
My first piece for the Autumn Society's Japanese pop culture show. It's Colonel Sanders in a Tanooki suit.
Ahem. But why? I struggled quite a bit with all the things I wanted to reference for this show, so I combined a few of my favorites into one piece. It's a bit unusual, but I think here in the west our perception of Japanese pop culture is that it's full of bizarre stuff, so I figured it fit the bill pretty well.
So why the Tanooki suit?
Everybody is familiar with the Tanooki suit from Mario 3, probably one of the most highly regaurded and iconic power-ups in the history of the series. Most people think that it's just another example of Mario randomness, (such as mushrooms that make you grow, etc,) but it actually has meaning in Japanese culture. The tanuki is a not really a racoon but a separate species best translated as "raccoon dog." They have been featured in Japanese folklore and proverbs for centuries. They are said to be masters of disguise, and many Japanese temples and businesses feature tanuki statues out front, hence why Mario can inexplicably (or so you thought) turn into a statue when wearing the suit.
In the folklore they wear a sort of bonnet-like hat, which is why I added one in the drawing. They are also typically depicted with enourmous testicles. I didn't add those.
So then why Colonel Sanders?
KFC is in huge Japan. As in, really huge. They actually see KFC as a Japanese company, and much like the tanuki, there are statues of Colonel Sanders everywhere, often dressed in traditional Japanese garb. He is a pop culture icon over there (not to say that he isn't one over here, but in Japan he's approaching Mickey Mouse territory.) This has always fascinated me because I wonder what it is about a Kentucky Colonel the Japanese find so enthralling. Also, since the Japanese celebration of Christmas is quite different from ours, as I'm sure you can imagine, they weren't really familiar with the tradition of eating a cooked bird for the holidays. When KFC started franchising in Japan in the 70's, they remedied this by promoting the tradition with their fried chicken as opposed to the more typical home-cooked turkey, and to this day there are lines at every Japanese KFC on Christmas eve.
So that's your cultural lesson for today, meant to explain why I drew this piece for reasons other than it was just funny to me.
Posted by Glen at 12:13 PM