So what are they? And what is their significance as a part of Japanese culture?
They're called tanuki, and ornaments you see above are modeled after a real animal that is native to Japan. Tanuki have a pretty big role in Japanese Folklore - there's the idea that tanuki are shapeshifters, and able to transform into other beings. They're not seen as bad guys though - more like a goofy and mischievous character.
You may have also encountered tanuki before if you're a Studio Ghibli fan, from the film Pom Poko.
One of the most interesting things to me about the tanuki ornaments is that they are said to have 8 characteristics that bring you good fortune - so if you're in the market for a good luck charm, a tanuki might be a good one for you!
The good luck traits that the tanuki statues have are...
and last but not least,
Hopefully that helps explain those ornaments that you may have seen for sale along your travels - it might now be something you want to add to your souvenir collection!