Super Mario Bodhisattva?

Taking a break from the subjects of religion and travel in Japan (mostly), I wanted to bring up something I finally noticed after all these years. I grew up as a real, genuine Nintendo fan as a young boy. I was right in that target demographic in the 80’s when Super Mario Brothers came out, then SMB2, 3 and so on. I grew up watching the Super Mario Brothers Super Show,1 and even ate the Nintendo Cereal for breakfast for a time. Somehow, in spite of all this, I turned out OK.2

Anyway, since purchasing the Nintendo Wii a few months back, I started playing old classic Nintendo games again for cheap. I just buy the little “points” gift cards at a local store near work, redeem them online at the Wii Store, and download the games without having to use my credit card online. So, among the games I play again is Super Mario 3, arguably one of the best in the series, and in the game one can dress up as a tanuki among other characters. As a little boy, I never knew what a tanuki even was, and just assumed it was a raccoon with special powers. Anyone who has played the game remembers that Mario can turn into a statue when dressed as a tanuki, but I never understood as a small boy what the statue was.

Super Mario Brothers 3 Tanuki Suit

Now, when I play the game it’s painfully obvious: it is the Buddhist figure of Jizo Bodhisattva, right down the red bib. Compare with this photo I took at Ueno Park in Tokyo:

Jizo Bodhisattva at Ueno Park 2

It’s hilarious to realize now how many little Japanese and Buddhist cultural “witticisms” I was exposed to as a kid and never knew it. Not to mention all the funny English translations in the earlier Nintendo games. :)

On kakakabi sanmaei sowaka

1 Also enjoyed Captain N the Gamemaster a lot too.

2 My therapist said I am nearly cured. Just kidding. 😉

4 thoughts on “Super Mario Bodhisattva?

  1. How did I miss the cereal? I want some. Looks like Lucky Charms.

    The Tanuki suit was certainly an interesting one. I never took the time to look very close at it to see what kind of statue it was, but nice to know finally. I always wanted to fight as the statue, figured it was more powerful than a raccoon.

  2. Hi Kendall,

    The cereal wasn’t very good actually. Think of a generic American cereal with some marshmallows, and that was Nintendo Cereal. It was blatant product pushing, with just enough effort thrown in to make the cereal editable. No criticism to the hardworking people who made it, as I did enjoy it as a kid and relish in the nostalgia, but if it sold again, I wouldn’t let my daughter eat it anymore than I would any other “kids cereal”. :)

    Me, on the other hand, I might help myself to just one box…

  3. Doug,

    Do you remember the Nintendo soda? It came in these small cans, my sister and I went crazy over them. I recently stumbled on your site so I’m not sure if you’ve written on this before but have you looked into the Japanese and cultural influences in the Legend of Zelda Series? It’s worth taking a look if you haven’t already.

  4. Hi Sam and welcome to the JLR. I actually don’t remember soda, but you’ve got me very intrigued. As for your post, i did take a look, and I was contemplating a similar article because like you, I noticed the origins of the Triforce design when I last visited Japan. Even took a photo or two. I should bring it up, in any case, but I’ll make sure to give credit. :) Nice research!

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