Why would two rats be upset at a turtle stealing their radish?
July 6, 2012 10:15 PM   Subscribe

Help me identify the (possibly Japanese) folk tale illustrated on this plate.

The picture shows shows two rats in kimono who seem rather upset that a turtle or tortoise is taking away a large daikon radish, which it has strapped to its shell. I always thought that this must be a scene from a folk tale or maybe an illustration of a proverb, but I have never been able to discover one that fits. Maybe the hive mind knows?

The illustration is on a large decorative china plate that has been in my grandmother's family for many years. It would have been bought in either Hong Kong, Singapore, Sydney or Madras (Chennai) in the late 19th or early 20th century. It looks East Asian in origin, and more Japanese than Chinese.
posted by girlgenius to Writing & Language (1 answer total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
It's likely related to Daikoku, one of the seven gods of fortune. The radish is called daikon in Japanese, so it's a pun on his name. See here for his relationship with the rat (start under the numbered bullet list); the two are often depicted together. (The turtle, btw, is associated with the god Fukurokuju -- not sure if that's the intent here.)
posted by (alice) at 11:15 PM on July 6, 2012 [2 favorites]

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