Cultured critter wants into the building, ends up in our hearts instead.

It’s always nice to see kids taking an interest in culture and the arts, so ordinarily the staff of Tokyo’s Setagaya Art Museum would have been happy to welcome a young visitor. However, there were a few rules that the tyke who came up to the door recently forgot to follow.

First, kids need to be accompanied by their parents. Second, they should arrive during normal operating hours, not as the staff is closing up for the night. And third, and also most importantly, kids can’t get in if they also happen to be tanuki.

The baby tanuki showed up at the employee entrance/exit on the evening of June 2, and was very determined to get in, perhaps because it really wanted to see the current special exhibit on the works of Finnish architects Aino and Alvar Aalto. As adorable as tanuki are though, especially as babies, they’re still wild animals, and generally not the sort of critters you want hanging around pieces of high art.

This left the security guard in a bit of a quandary, since he didn’t want to traumatize the unaccompanied baby by shouting or intimidating it to shoo it away, but he couldn’t allow it to slip inside either.

So what ended up happening was a 15-minute game of cat-and-mouse/tanuki-and-guard, where the employee kept the door firmly shut unless other workers needed to go home, in which case they coordinated the opening of the door so that the tanuki couldn’t get in. Eventually, the animal gave up and headed back into the surrounding brush, looking, of course, very cute as it did so.

Along with a slew of squeals of “Sooo cuuute,”the videos have prompted comments such as:

“There are still a lot of tanuki in Tokyo’s Setagaya Ward.”
“When I was riding a train on the Setagaya Line, I looked out the window and saw two tanuki grooming each other.”
“Maybe the tanuki’s parents have shapeshifted into humans [like they do in folktales] and work at the museum, so it came to see them?”

A number of people also pointed out that the Setagaya Art Museum is located inside Kinuta Park, and if you reverse the syllables of “Kinuta” you get “tanuki.”

▼ Top: Kinuta
Bottom: Tanuki

Several commenters also expressed their hope that the baby could be reunited with its parents, and thankfully the museum staff has since seen the baby walking in the park with a parent, so we can breathe a sigh of relief that it made it back home safe and sound. That Aalto exhibit only runs until the 20th, though, so the tanuki family might want to get cracking on the shapeshifting.

Related: Setagaya Art Museum
Source: YouTube/世田谷美術館SETAGAYA ART MUSEUM, IT Media
Top image: YouTube/世田谷美術館SETAGAYA ART MUSEUM
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