We’re not fairly on the Billiken-foot-rubbing stage of normalcy but.
Whereas nonetheless sitting on the doable cusp of second-wave coronavirus outbreaks in Japan, outlets and points of interest are slowly getting again to enterprise. Removed from a full blown reopening, nonetheless, tight restrictions are being exercised in a number of industries similar to amusement park friends being requested to chorus from displaying feelings and to apply social distancing with the ghosts in haunted homes.
Now, you could be asking: “Properly, not less than I can nonetheless go and rub the massive toes of a monkey-like god statue in Osaka, proper?”
Fallacious! As the next information report exhibits, guests to Osaka’s well-known Tsutenkaku tower are instructed to as a substitute “air contact” the soles of its well-known Billiken statue in the intervening time.
In the event you weren’t asking the earlier query, you then may now be asking: “What the hell are you speaking about?”
It began again in 1908, when an American artist by the identify of Florence Pretz (no relation to the snack) had a imaginative and prescient of this mysterious creature in a dream. After committing its likeness to paper and giving it the identify Billiken, Pretz patented her newfound deity as “The God of Issues as They Should Be.”
Round that very same time the Meiji restoration was in full swing in Japan, and the nation was quickly embracing Western tradition, partly by scooping up the licenses for iconic western figures left and proper. That is about the identical time that American Kewpie dolls have been imported to Japan, solely to in the end change into the face of its main mayonnaise model.
For higher or for worse, a first-rate minister of Japan through the Billiken fad, Terauchi Masatake, bore an uncanny resemblance to the magical troll and was even nicknamed “Prime Minister Billiken.”
For a lot of the early 20th century, Billiken fortunate charms have been having fun with large reputation in each America and Japan and in 1912 a well-known statue of him was positioned within the unique Tsutenkaku of Luna Park amusement park in what’s now the Shinsekai space of Osaka. A Japanese superstition was additionally promoted that rubbing Billiken’s massive protruding toes will bless you with good luck.
▼ Japan additionally gave Billiken his personal theme music, Billiken Samba, sooner or later
In the meantime within the US, Billiken-fever started to subside and many of the nation regularly forgot concerning the character. Utilization of his likeness grew to become relegated to some pockets of American tradition, most notably because the mascot for Saint Louis College.
▼ Billiken was the winner of Jimmy Fallon’s 2019 mascot slam dunk contest
In Japan too, Billiken was by no means fairly what it was within the early 1900s, and slowly vanished from most elements of the nation. It was solely in Osaka and the encompassing space that his legacy lived on, in no small half due to his shut reference to the guts of the town’s tourism trade.
A picket Billiken statue, replicating the one put in in Luna Park from 1912 to 1923, was positioned in Tsutenkaku in 1979. It was an enormous draw and so many individuals rubbed its toes whereas visiting that they started to develop grooves measuring about four centimeters (1.57 inches) deep.
In 2012, on the 100th anniversary of it’s unique set up, a brand new model was put in and at the moment sits on the remark deck, whereas the second-generation Billiken was moved to the decrease site visitors of the fifth ground. Every one nonetheless sits there to this very day, able to dispense good luck in change for foot rubs.
And so, that’s the reason Japan won’t ever be fairly again to regular till everybody is ready to rub the toes of the SLU mascot on the high of a serious Osaka landmark.
We’ll get there sometime….