In human form, Kitsunes usually wear their hoshi no tamas as amulets, but in fox form, they carry the magical balls in their mouths or fasten them to their tails. In some stories, kitsune have difficulty hiding their tails when they take human form; looking for the tail, perhaps when the fox gets drunk or careless, is a common method of discerning the creature's true nature.

Some tales speak of kitsune with even greater powers, able to bend time and space, drive people mad, or take fantastic shapes such as a tree of incredible height or a second moon in the sky.

Their cute faces and small size make them particularly loved by most people. In ancient Japanese, Kitsu-ne meant “that comes back and sleeps”, or it could also be read as ki-tsune, “that always comes back” The explanation for these interpretations can be give by one of the many legends about these spirits. Other According to Yōkaifolklore, all foxes have the ability to shapeshift into human form. A nine-tailed fox spirit (kyūbi no kitsune) scaring Prince Hanzoku; print by Utagawa Kuniyoshi, Edo period, 19th century. Appearance: Nogitsune, also frequently called yako, are a type of kitsune—magical foxes found in East Asian folklore. Kitsune have become closely associated with Inari, a Shinto kami or spirit, and serve as its messengers.

Tales describe these as glowing with kitsunebi. Accordingly, common households thought to harbor kitsune are treated with suspicion.

On the other hand, the yako (野狐, literally field foxes, also called nogitsune) tend to be mischievous or even malicious.

[22] A particularly devout individual may even be able to see through a fox's disguise merely by perceiving them. They get into a lot of mischief, I'm afraid, and I'm always after them to stop, but they never listen. Kitsune (狐狸精), the Japanese fox-spirit , is also known as the Kumiho (구미호) in Korea and the Huli Jing (狐狸精) in China. They eat only what foxes are believed to like – tofu, aburagé, azukimeshi, etc. [74], Shapeshifting fox-spirits in Japanese folk mythology, This article is about the Japanese word for the fox. A different type of Kitsune are the Inari. If you do give it back though, I'll stick to you like a protector god. He met her one evening on a vast moor and married her. A kitsune can have as many as nine tails (known as the kyūbi no kitsune, 九尾の狐; Eng: nine-tailed fox), with a new tail splitting off every 100 years. When the Kitsune reaches his one hundredth birthday, he can begin shapeshifting, a trick that makes describing him very difficult. These legendary foxes have been delighting Japanese people for centuries, whether by celebrating a wedding with “foxfire” lanterns or making the village jerk run through the streets naked and give all his money away. We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. We can find a fox in Inuyasa too. According to the story, he was staying at the home of one of his devotees when he scalded his foot entering a bath because the water had been drawn too hot. [31], In Japan, kitsunetsuki was described as a disease as early as the Heian period and remained a common diagnosis for mental illness until the early 20th century. They know everything about this world, they know the past and what will happen in the future. They can take possession of human bodies, usually to humiliate a person who has wronged them by making him run through the town naked, give all his money away, or eat huge amounts of food until he grows fat.

As mentioned, they are shapeshifting spirits and they have the ability to turn without age or sex problems. Blog Kitsu was the word used to indicate the sound emitted by these animals. They are ambivalent beings, on one side they are lovable lovers, on the other side they are mischievous creatures. Other tales credit them with infinite wisdom (omniscience). According to the story, he was staying at the home of one of his devotees when he scalded his foot entering a bath because the water had been drawn too hot. Other tales credit them with infinite wisdom (omniscience). Some families, who were believed to be descended from yako foxes, were ostracized by their communities. Shingen, Turnbull writes, "was so obsessed with the girl that his superstitious followers became alarmed and believed her to be an incarnation of the white fox-spirit of the Suwa Shrine, who had bewitched him in order to gain revenge." They are benevolent spirits and meeting one of them can only bring good news.

The netsuke are the small statues made in wood or ivory. [44] For example, a 12th-century tale describes a man using a fox's hoshi no tama to secure a favor; "Confound you!"

The man refuses, and the foxes resign themselves to moving to an abandoned lot nearby. Prick it with a needle, and it glides instantly to another place. High cheekbones and fine and narrow eyes, considered to be very sensual. Other old sources include Nihon Ryōiki (810–824) and Wamyō Ruijushō (c. 934).

Other kitsune have characteristics reminiscent of vampires or succubi and feed on the life or spirit of human beings, generally through sexual contact.

The oldest known usage of the word is in text Shin'yaku Kegonkyō Ongi Shiki, dating to 794.

Kitsune first debuted in Japanese literature in the eighth century, and their legend has never faded since. Families kept foxes as pets, believing the foxes would bring them wealth and success. Then, "in his pain, he ran out of the bathroom naked.

Nozaki, Kiyoshi. They can also be portrayed as bipedal. However, this does not mean that kitsune are ghosts, nor that they are fundamentally different from regular foxes. The zenko are good foxes who serve Inari, the goddess of rice and prosperity. No two Kitsune are exactly alike, and all of them are complex characters! The more tails a kitsune has—they may have as many as nine—the older, wiser, and more powerful it is. They can be found as statues around ancient shrines for Inari, on calligraphy scrolls by Japan’s finest artists, and of course, in thousands of folktales. [22] The astrologer-magician Abe no Seimei was reputed to have inherited such extraordinary powers. [1], Most tales of kitsune are about foxes punishing wicked priests, greedy merchants, and boastful drunkards. Japan Folklore & Culture And many cases of mental illness were described as kitsunetsuki, or possession by foxes. Kitsune: Japan's fox of mystery, romance and humor. 1961.

", Kitsune, Kumiho, Huli Jing, Fox – Fox spirits in Asia, and Asian fox spirits in the West,, Short description is different from Wikidata, Articles containing Japanese-language text, Articles containing Chinese-language text, Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License, Myōgoki (1268) suggests that it is so called because it is "always (. The world Kitsune does not literally mean ‘Fox’. They’ve been known to appear as impossibly tall trees and second moons in the sky. According to Yōkai folklore, all foxes have the ability to shapeshift into human form. In these temples, the faithful are used to leave offerings of food for them, udon, soba, sushi and preferably the Aburaage fried tofu which is said to be Kitzune’s favourites. Be on the lookout for your Britannica newsletter to get trusted stories delivered right to your inbox. They are a type of yōkai, or spiritual entity, and the word kitsune is often translated as fox spirit.

di Erika Panzeri, © 2018 Japan Italy Bridge is part of BRIDGE MEDIA Communication di Erika Panzeri | All rights reserved | Privacy Policy: ITA | ENG | JP, For information or contact please write us to, Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window), Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window), Click to share on Tumblr (Opens in new window), Click to share on Pinterest (Opens in new window), Click to share on Telegram (Opens in new window), Click to share on WhatsApp (Opens in new window), Click to share on Skype (Opens in new window), Click to share on Reddit (Opens in new window). These magical foxes love to take human forms. Symptoms include cravings for rice or sweet adzuki beans, listlessness, restlessness, and aversion to eye contact. The kitsune patriarch appears in the man's dreams:[62], My father lived here before me, sir, and by now I have many children and grandchildren.

Stories depict them as intelligent beings and as possessing magical abilities that increase with their age and wisdom. Take your favorite fandoms with you and never miss a beat. The nine-tailed foxes came to be adapted as a motif from Chinese mythology to Japanese mythology. Also present in Buddhism, we find Dakini, Inari’s female alter ego, as she rides a white fox, brandishing a sword.

According to tradition it is believed that seeing a beautiful woman wandering aimlessly during sunset hours it could actually be a fox. Common belief in medieval Japan was that any woman encountered alone, especially at dusk or night, could be a fox.