Raccoons today are considered a menace in Japan and are known for rummaging around in trash as well as stealing merchandise from merchants, eating crops, and even harming the historical Japanese temples due to their sharp claws as well as their poop.
However, their poop-filled invasion began in 1977 when children from Japan were in a frenzy over the cartoon character raccoon called Rascal.
He was adorable and playful and was the main character in the animated version of the popular children’s story composed by American author Sterling North. Eric Grundhauser over at Atlas Obscura explains that the novel, titled Rascal The Memoirs of a Better Era, was first released to the Western public in 1963. The book was about North’s childhood adventures with his pet Raccoon. The audience loved the comforting and cozy tale to the max, and Disney even made it into a live-action feature in 1969.
The book reached the heights of its fame after being adapted to Japan, and the Nippon Animation Company turned it into a 52-episode animated show that was a hit with kids nationwide. Kids enjoyed Rascal enough to want raccoons to embark on their own adventures. This success leads the Japanese to import more than 1500 racoons. However, Grundhauser wishes they would have finished the series before this move.
At the close of Sterling’s book, he’s required to take Rascal back to nature for him to live his life as he’s designed to live–not just in the role of a human companion and animal, but rather as a wild animal. This is exactly what families living in Japan ended up doing as well. Even though Raccoons appear like adorable little kittens, however, they aren’t exactly great pets.
The Japanese government had stopped imports of raccoons and their keeping as pets; however, the harm was already accomplished. According to a 2004 study conducted across 42 of Japan’s 47 prefectures, the ancestors of the Rascal trend can be seen.
Japan is one of many locations the raccoons are invading outside their home North American foraging grounds. Certain regions of Europe and the Caucuses suffer from their issues with raccoons because of hunters and the fur trade. Raccoons’ ability to transmit deadly diseases such as rabies created panic in Spain in 2012. In Germany in 2012, one city had 100 raccoons in square kilometers.