Tagged: statues


Tone Canal Billiken Shrine in Nagareyama, Japan

Billiken is one of the many iconic mascots of Osaka, alongside the Glico marathon runner and the gigantic crab. Also called Billiken-san, this narrow-eyed dwarf with an onion-shaped head is said to be a lucky god, particularly revered by merchants who believe that rubbing the feet of his effigy brings you good luck. While he is well-known across Japan, it often goes unmentioned that he does not originate in Japan, but in Kansas City, Missouri. Billiken, the “god of things as they ought to be,” was designed circa 1907-1908 by illustrator Florence Pretz for her friend Sarah Hamilton Birchall’s stories published in The Canada West magazine. He instantly proved to be a hit, exceptionally profitable (except to the designer herself, much to her chagrin). Billiken statuettes were warmly received in Alaska and the Russian Far East, and accepted as part of the indigenous mythologies. He is also remembered today as the…


‘The Fat Policeman’ in Budapest, Hungary

St. Stephen’s Basilica is one of the most popular attractions in the Hungarian capital, and Uncle Karl has kept a watchful eye on it since 1987. Standing in the market square, the “Fat Policeman” statue was created by Finnish sculptor Kaarlo Mikkonen (1920-2001) and has since become a beloved icon of the city. Nicknamed Uncle Karl, the affable bronze copper is clad in a circa-mid-20th-century uniform, complete with a dated helmet and a dapper mustachio. Uncle Karl is notable for his belly, which has a gloriously golden patina—a clear sign that it has been rubbed by many. Local superstition has it that rubbing his belly grants you good luck and immunity against weight gain so that one can enjoy as much Hungarian food as they like. …