2023 is known to be the year of the rabbit in the lunar calendar. Not only are rabbits adorable, but they are also associated with bringing in luck. As a result, many people visit rabbit-themed Japanese temples, especially during the Year of the Rabbit, to pray for good luck and safe childbirth!
Tsuki no Usagi, or The Moon Rabbit, is one of the most famous Japanese folktales. Does the Japanese name sound familiar? It’s because it is the Japanese name of the main character in Sailor Moon, Usagi Tsukino! Just like Usagi Tsukino, the folktale focuses on the power of love and kindness.
The folktale follows a man from the Moon onto Earth disguised as a beggar. He meets a fox, a monkey, and a rabbit and asks them for food. The fox caught fish from the river, and the monkey got fruit from the tree. The rabbit, however, needed more confidence since it could only bring grass. So the rabbit asked the beggar to make a fire so that the rabbit could offer itself as a meal.
Stunned by this astonishing act of kindness and selflessness, the beggar transferred back into the man from the Moon. He told the rabbit that it shouldn’t harm itself and promised the rabbit a new life on the moon since. The man then sent the rabbit to the Moon, which resulted in the moon’s shadow resembling a rabbit’s. The purpose was for being on Earth to be inspired by the rabbit’s kindness and follow in its footsteps.
Some people say that the image of the rabbit on the moon looks like it is making mochi. In the fall, there are several moon-related festivals. These festivals are tsukimi or moon viewing, where you can see the rabbit making mochi on the moon. During this time, many people like to eat mochi and drink sake with friends and look for the rabbit on the Moon!
Various manga and anime have adapted the story of selfishness. Some of the most popular adaptations of this story can be observed in Sailor Moon, Dragon Ball, Naruto, and One Piece. In One Piece, Carrot’s strong connection to the Moon and her reputation for selflessness is evident. Does your favorite anime or manga have a rabbit character? Let us know in the comments below!
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In addition to inspiring kindness and bringing luck, the rabbit is associated with rebirth and fertility. These associations are brought forward in many Japanese temples and shrines. Many of them have adorable special amulets you can take home too!
This shrine may be small, but it is Japan’s most famous rabbit shrine for a kawaii reason! It boasts a lot of rabbit imagery, from statues to omikuji (fortune papers). It is said that the Okazaki area was once abundant in rabbits, so they were seen as heavenly messengers.
You should touch the black granite rabbits to receive good luck for conception. If you want good luck in marriage, you can also touch the stone rabbits. Additionally, you can buy many cute amulets for fertility, childbirth, and safe delivery to take home!
This shrine is known as a power spot in Nara since it is closely associated with the surrounding Mt. Miwa. At this shrine, there is an adorable bronze statue of a rabbit. According to legend, if you touch the rabbit, it will heal all of your pain. This incredible legend draws inspiration from one of the oldest love stories in Japan!
This legend comes from the enshrined deity of the shrine, Okuninushi. One day Okuninushi and his elder brothers decided to visit the shrine to propose marriage to a princess. On his way, the brother saw a hurt and crying rabbit. The brothers promised to heal the rabbit, but they hurt it more. Later Okuninushi passed and healed the rabbit, so the rabbit said, “The princess shall marry you.”
Thus the rabbit became a symbol of healing at this shrine. Additionally, many people visit this shrine to hang the rabbit ema (woodblock for writing wishes) with red strings. These red strings symbolize the akai ito or the red string of fate seen in anime like Your Name and Cardcaptor Sakura.
This shrine also honors Okuninushi and follows a similar legend but features a crocodile as the reason for the rabbit’s wounds. Following the legend, Hakuto Shrine is a famous shrine for matchmaking. You can buy several rabbit-themed amulets for good luck in romance.
Next to the shrine is Hakuto Beach which is famous for dates and known as a lover’s sanctuary in Japan. In 2010 Hakuto Beach was designated as “the holy ground for lovers.” If you visit Japan with your boyfriend or girlfriend, this is a must-visit location!
The shrine gets its name from the folktale surrounding the rabbit on the Moon. Here you can find dozens of adorable rabbit statues that act as shrine guardians. The shrine was originally a sacred storehouse for tributes to the gods.
In addition to being well known for rabbits, this shrine is one of the few shrines without a torii gate! According to local legend, since the shrine was a storehouse, the torii were removed to make transport easier. Because of this unusual design change, Tsuki Shrine is one of the most unique shrines to visit in Japan!
Rabbits are so cute and fluffy; seeing one can make your day infinitely brighter! They are also closely associated with luck, kindness, and love in Japan. Not to mention, rabbit and moon imagery is very popular in most anime and manga. Have you ever been to any of these Japanese temples before? Does any of your favorite manga feature rabbits? Let us know in the comments below!
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