Quest For Japan Logo-Ver7

What Does the Japanese Fox Say – A Look at Foxes in Japanese Folklore and Popular Culture

Date Published: Last Update:2015/05/15 Animal, Pop Culture & OTAKU, Traditional Culture , ,

Popular manga titles Naruto, YuYu Hakusho, and Inuyasha has one thing in common – they have characters depicting a fox or in Japanese, kitsune (キツネ). The fox (esp. the species Vulpes vulpes) is a common topic in Japanese myths and legends. They are intelligent beings and possess magical abilities. The most common of these abilities is the ability to transform or disguise as humans. While sometimes portrayed as tricksters, tricking other human and animals, some stories speak of them as faithful guardians.

Inari, the Fox Diety

It is believed that in ancient Japan, foxes lived close together with humans. It gave rise to different stories and legends. Foxes have become particularly associated with the Japanese deity Inari. The foxes served as Inari’s messengers. Inari is regarded as the deity of foxes, of fertility, rice, tea and sake (Japanese rice wine), of agriculture and industry, and of general prosperity and worldly success. There are numerous shrines and temples dedicated to Inari across Japan with its head Shrine Fushimi Inari-taisha located in Fushimi, Kyoto. An Inari shrine can be easily distinguished because of numerous fox statues at the gate and inside the premises.

DSCN1647

DSCN1642

kitsune 3

Some of the fox statues found inside the Fushimi Inari-taisha.

Kitsune Abilities and Powers According Japanese Folklore

As portrayed in several Japanese folklore, foxes have superior intelligence and magical abilities. Because of this, though they are not ghosts, foxes (kitsune) are considered as yōkai and the word kitsune is sometimes translated as fox spirit. There are two common classifications of the Japanese fox: zenko (善狐 lit. good fox) and yako or nogitsune (野狐lit. field fox). The zenko are the ones associated with Inari while the yako tends to be malevolent foxes. Another tradition classifies kitsune into what supernatural ability they possess: kaze (wind), chikyu (Earth), kasai (fire) kawa (river), tengoku, (heaven), kaminari (thunder), yama (mountain), kukan (void), seishin (spirit), jikan (time), mori (forest), umi (ocean), and ongaku (music). Ever heard of Eevee in the popular franchise Pokemon? Some people believed it is based on the kitsune. It can evolve into different types (fire, water, etc.) depending on the circumstances.

Kitsune are also illustrated as having many tails. The greater the tails, the more powerful and intelligent the kitsune is. The nine-tailed fox is the most powerful and gain the ability to see and hear everything happening anywhere in the world. In popular culture, Kurama, the nine-tailed fox, in the manga Naruto is the most powerful among the tailed-beasts.

kurama

Kurama, the nine-tailed fox, is believed to be the most powerful among the tailed beasts in the popular manga Naruto. (Image by Melissa_1995 on Flickr)

Kitsune’s Human Transformation

A kitsune can also gain the ability to disguised as a human through ages. As a common prerequisite to the transformation, the fox must place reeds, a broad leaf, or a skull above its head. Kin’emon in the hit manga One Piece has its power based on this fox’s ability: disguise himself or anyone by putting a stone or leaf on the head.

092648

A kitsune preparing to transform by placing a leaf above its head. (Image from AC-Illust)

More stories and legends about kitsune will be featured in the next post.

References:

1. Kitsune. Wikipedia.

2. Kitsune: The Real and Fantastic Japanese Fox. Tofugu.

The following two tabs change content below.

Sponsored Links

  • Pocket
  • 1 follow us in feedly

Related Article/s:

kana cards

Kotoba Asobi: Kaibun – Learning the Japanese Style of Wordplay 1

The Japanese language is a very beautiful and fun language. On the contrary though, it’s also a very difficult language for non-native speakers. A word in English can have many translations in Japanese depending on the context. Wrong pronunciation of a certain Japanese word can also mean another non-related word. A fun way to learn […]

Read Article

kaomoji

Kaomoji: Expressing Emotions Through Text 2

As social media has become widespread, emoticons have played a significant role in communication through technology. They offer another range of “tone” and feeling through texting that portrays specific emotions through facial gestures while in the midst of text-based cyber communication. Japanese then created their own versions of emoticons in such a way that you […]

Read Article

Kotatsu

New Year Holidays in Japan : Kotatsu

In Japan, except northern cold areas like Hokkaido, houses are usually built to suit Japanese hot humid summer. This means many Japanese houses are drafty, and in other words, it can be freezing even indoor in winter. Most of those houses are without a central heating system, so people keep warm with individual heating devices […]

Read Article

fukubukuro

Fukubukuro – Japanese Lucky Bags

Fukubukuro (福袋 literally means “lucky bag”, “mystery bag”) is a Japanese New Year custom in which merchants make grab bags filled with unknown random contents and sell them for a substantial discount, usually 50% or more off the list price of the items contained within. The low prices are usually done to attract customers to […]

Read Article

Rabbit

We are ninjas : Walk like a ninja!

Ninja walk : “Ashi-nami Jyukkajyou” (Ten walking methods) There is a ninjutsu-sho (a book about ninja’s tricks) entitled “Shouninki” or “Seininki” (literal meaning is “The notes of correct ninja”), written by a military expert in the “Kishuu” domain (the present Wakayama and a part of Mie area) in 1681. In this book, there are ten […]

Read Article

4881450065_fe7f37024d_z

Playing with Flowers in Cards: Hanafuda 2

As we learned in our first post about Hanafuda (花札), they are Japanese playing cards that are used to play a number of games. The name comes from two Japanese words hana (花) which means flowers and fuda (札) which can mean cards. Some call it “flower cards” in English. In this post, we will […]

Read Article

4421620285_5227d3f439_m

Onsen

Japan is one of the countries located along the “Pacific Ring of Fire”.  Countries along the “Pacific Ring of Fire” have high seismic and volcanic activity.  This explains why earthquakes are common in the “Land of the Rising Sun”.  There are many  volcanoes in Japan.  In fact, approximately ten percent of the world’s active volcanoes […]

Read Article

084646

The Princess Who Came From a Bamboo, Princess Kaguya

It was December last year when I had my first time in a Japanese movie theater. The movie we watched was Studio Ghibli’s Kaguya-hime no Monogatari. Though my Japanese is limited, the movie never failed to amazed me somehow. From The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter Kaguya-hime no Monogatari(かぐや姫の物語) or The Tale of Princess Kaguya […]

Read Article

Kiji2

Japanese Monkey (Part2), and Pheasant related stories

Monkey in Japan Although “saru” is a general word for monkeys, I guess most of Japanese would think it refers to Nihon-zaru, Japanese monkey. It has fluffy coat, red face and red butt. There are many areas where wild monkeys live in Japan. I’ve never seen one, but I saw a warning like “Be careful […]

Read Article

MomoBooks_s

Momotarou, the Japanese old tale

Momotarou “Momotarou” is one of the very well-known folk tales in Japan, and it’s a quite popular character in Okayama where I live, so I felt this would be a good theme to start. Like many children’s stories, Momotarou is about “The good defeats the evil forces”. Outline Once upon a time, there was an […]

Read Article

Sponsored Links

Leave a Reply

Sponsored Links

  • Google+
    InstagramInstagram
PAGE TOP ↑