Stories and pictures from my travels around Japan,
including hundreds of temples and a walk of over 500 km (300 miles)
(more about my travels in Japan)

The Froggie is In

"Frog" and "Clinic," you may ask? (Don't even get me started on the topic of "Mental health care & Dance studio.")

I saw this sign on a ramble (heading for a temple, of course) in a southern suburb of Tokyo.

There is a strong association of "frog" and "healing" in Japan.

My friend Karen once invited me to help carry a portable shrine up Mt. Tsukuba in Ibaraki Prefecture (for which I've never quite forgiven her). Images of frogs are ubiquitous there; there's even a giant one squatting on top of a phone booth (or there was in 1997).

It turns out (of course) there's a myth.

A Daoist immortal named Gama Sennin was imported from China, where he's Liu Hai. Liu Hai was a 10th-century alchemist who learned the secret of immortality from a toad with three legs (called "The Money Toad"--it's a long story).

Gama Sennin ("The Toad Immortal") is often found in netsuke and other folk arts. He walks with a cane, and generally has a three-legged toad on his shoulder. This toad has magical properties.

There is a species of toad that lives on Mt. Tsukuba, called Tsukuba-San gama-gaeru (Mt. Tsukuba toad). His sweat (really, this is not legend) is gathered and made into an ointment called "gama no abura"--toad oil. Although a "folk" remedy, modern doctors attest to its value.

(A new film titled Gama no Abura is being released this month, starring and directed by famous face Koji Yakusho [Babel, Memoirs of a Geisha]; I can't get enough info to figure out what it has to do with the oil.)

So toads and healing are associated in the Japanese mind. Could this be the source of the "Froggies Clinic" brand?

By the way, I can't help but notice that the illustration resembles a couple of Balinese flying frog statues given to me by a TV actress I used to date.Another source of healing?

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