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Two of Japan's native wild animals are the きつね fox and たぬき raccoon dog.

Interestingly there are also noodle dishes apparently named after each. (Not containing the meat of those animals!)

The terms seem to be mostly for うどん udon but occur with other kinds of noodles in Japan such as ramen and soba too.

Do we know how these two noodle dishes came to each be named after a Japanese animal? Could it be that one animal lives in a part of the country where one style of noodle dish was first popular while the other animal lives in a different part of the country with a different popular noodle dish?

Or is it based on something else?

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きつね (foxes) are regarded sacred animals in Shintoism, being servants of the god of harvests ([稲荷]{いなり}神).

きつね
(source: martle.net)

(The sign on the 鳥居 (Shinto archway) says 稲荷大神.)

According to legend, a fox's favourite food is 油揚げ (deep-fried tofu slices). Stripes of 油揚げ are what makes きつねうどん きつねうどん. (By the way, 油揚げ can also be sliced up and filled with 酢飯 (sushi rice) and sesame to make いなり寿司.)

I'm not aware of any similar explanation for たぬきうどん, whose characteristic ingredient is 揚げ玉 (which you might also come across as 天かす, although there is a difference between the two). My guess would be that the name たぬきうどん was coined by analogy.

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    There are some theories about the etymology for たぬき listed here ja.wikipedia.org/wiki/… – dainichi May 7 '14 at 8:33
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    Could you provide a reference for a fox's favorite food being 油揚げ in legend? Is there a particularly well-known/representative tale? Thank you! =) – seijitsu Jun 4 '15 at 1:03
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    @seijitsu Sorry for the late reply. I was reviewing this question just now. Unfortunately I don't have a reference. Maybe "folklore" would be more accurate...? – Earthliŋ Sep 25 '15 at 21:35
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According to the German book "Der Tanuki", たぬきうどん (Tanuki-udon) were invented during a food shortage related to the Second World War. The proper ingredients of tempura udon were too expensive for many customers but the taste of just the fried batter could be had quite cheaply so tempura-udon was served without the filling. This was jokingly explained as the filling having been stolen by Tanuki, in reference to the legends of Tanuki-tricksters. The meal became popular and the name stuck.

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