The Tanuki, or Racoon Dog as he gets called in English, is a mischievous prankster animal, who shows up all the time in Japanese folklore and mythology. He can range from mildly annoying sake thief, to romancer of farmer's daughters, to a ravenous bean eater who murders an elderly woman, makes soup out of her, and feeds said soup to her husband as is the case in this CHILDREN'S STORY (Wait until you see what the rabbit does to get revenge)!
He's also famous for having the power to change his appearance, and for having testicles large enough to play the drums on. Or use as a futon.
Today's 諺 is largely tanuki based, but I got too excited when I first heard it, expecting that there would be a bizarre fairy-tale or legend to go along with it. While it does reference skin removal, it doesn't go into the entertaining detail that かちかちやま does. This saying is much more straightforward.
とらぬ たぬき の かわざんよう
toranu tanuki no kawazanyou
1. Don't count your tanuki-skins before you've skinned them.
2. Don't count your chickens before they hatch.
The reason that this saying uses tanukis specifically is because of their rascally wiles and their magical abilities to escape or to talk their way out of trouble before trappers can get their skins off. There are some web definitions that define the saying as covering all range of preparations: estimating hide yield, making profit estimates, borrowing/buying based on those profits, etc, before one even catches the tanuki in question. But the idea is basically the same at heart.
Interesting notes about this saying:
- Like so many others, it preserves the archaic ～ぬ (= ～ない) form of conjugation.
- It is often used in shortened form; Just saying 「皮算用」 suffices, which explains why kanji characters that literally mean "skin computation" get Rikai-channed as "an overoptimistic calculation; unreliable account."
- There are some cool equivalent expressions, like 「先ずウサギを捕まえる: First, CATCH the rabbit」 and 「穴の狢を値段する: Pricing the badger when it's still in the hole.」
You're planning out your course registration, even though you don't even know your entrance exam results? Didn't anyone ever tell you not to count your chickens before they hatch?