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Poncho, lemur and tanuki: Diplomats sculpt stoneware in west Japan symbolizing homelands

Japan-stationed diplomats proudly display figures they sculpted of raccoon dogs featuring unique aspects of their countries, at Shigaraki High School in Koka, Shiga Prefecture, on Nov. 11, 2022. (Mainichi/Yuko Murase)=Click/tap photo for more images.

KOKA, Shiga -- A group of diplomats stationed in Japan visited this city in western Japan on Nov. 11 to work with local high school students and others to make ceramic raccoon dog figures representing their countries.

    The group of 15 diplomats from 13 countries including Croatia, Azerbaijan and Austria stopped in the city as part of a series of tours organized by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, local governments and others. The tours are held in order to promote Japan's unique regional cultures. The former town of Shigaraki, now part of Koka, is known for its stoneware figures of Japanese raccoon dogs, or tanuki. The diplomatic corps visited Shiga Prefecture's famous sightseeing spots including Lake Biwa and Enryakuji Temple on Mount Hiei on Nov. 10 and 11.

    The group was welcomed by Shigaraki High School's pottery club, which had earlier researched and prepared designs for the figures. The designs incorporated a unique aspect of each country's culture, much to the diplomats' delight. Peru's raccoon dog was to be draped in a poncho, while Madagascar's would sport a lemur on its head.

    Diplomats are helped along by Shigaraki High School students as they make stoneware figures of raccoon dogs featuring unique aspects of their countries during a visit to the school in Koka, Shiga Prefecture, on Nov. 11, 2022. (Mainichi/Yuko Murase)=Click/tap photo for more images.

    Helped along by the students and others, the ambassadors made small pieces out of clay, carved in patterns, and molded the figures to completion.

    Haruto Yamamoto, 16, a second-year student at the school, said, "I was nervous, but it was so much fun to see the designs being brought to life. This was a great experience."

    Croatian ambassador to Japan, Drazen Hrastic, said, "This was a lot of fun and a wonderful experience. I was deeply impressed by the students' knowledge of our country's culture and history."

    The figures will be fired in a kiln in December and sent to each country's embassy.

    (Japanese original by Yuko Murase, Omihachiman Local Bureau)

    In Photos: Diplomats visiting west Japan sculpt tanuki figures symbolizing home cultures

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