Kitsune - Foxes in Japanese Culture

Kurama, the nine-tailed fox, was a milestone in many people's childhood. Who never watched Naruto and always loved it when he went into “berserker” mode. In fact, speaking of Kurama, it is about Kitsune that we will discuss a little.

In this article, we will see details about foxes in Japan, their popularity, legends, folklore. Did you know that in Japan, there is even a village where you can see foxes in the snow? Yes, foxes are of great interest in Japan!

In Japan, foxes are called kitsune flame (狐 – キツネ) and are known for their wit and intelligence. Traditional Japanese stories portray them as intelligent beings with paranormal abilities.

The Kitsune Tales

According to Yōkai folklore, all foxes can transform into human form. Who did not watch Natsume Yuujinchou, with our Nyanko-sensei. If you haven't watched it I believe it will be a good experience.

In some folk tales, they speak of foxes employing this ability to deceive others. In other stories, they are portrayed as faithful guardians, friends, lovers, and wives.

Kitsune - foxes in Japanese culture
Foxes in Fox Village

Foxes and humans lived together in ancient Japan, so this companionship gave rise to legends about the creatures. Kitsune became closely associated with Inari, a shinto kami, or spirit, and served as his messengers.

This role reinforced the fox's supernatural significance. The more tails a Kitsune has the older, the wiser and more powerful it is. Remembering that they can have up to nine, this form that is the most seen in popular culture.

Because of their potential power and influence, some people make sacrifices to them for a deity. In contrast, foxes were often seen as "witch animals". Especially during the superstitious Edo period, and they were considered goblins that could not be trusted.

Kitsune - foxes in Japanese culture
Foxes in Fox Village

Kitsune Masks 

Kitsune masks have a distinctive appearance, usually made from papier-mâché or wood and hand-painted with gold or red accents. The mask represents the face of a fox and is often used as part of a costume or costume in theatrical performances, or folk dances.

There are many different types of Kitsune masks, each with its own appearance and meaning. For example, the Noh Kitsune mask is used in Noh theater performances, and it usually has a more realistic and detailed appearance. The Okame Kitsune mask, on the other hand, is used in folk dance performances and has a more cartoonish appearance.

Kitsune masks are an important part of Japanese culture and are often seen in traditional festivals and ceremonies. In addition to their striking appearance and cultural symbolism, Kitsune masks are an example of Japanese craftsmanship and the country's rich craft tradition.

You can find some videos that teach step by step how to make a fox mask or buy it on Japanese websites, or anime and cosplay products.

We recommend reading: 10 Famous Japanese Masks and their Meanings

Honne and tatemae – knowing the two faces

Kitsune types

And finally, a bit of interesting information. They are not all the same, this may seem obvious. But anyway, let's identify some types that exist in the culture.

  • Bakemono-Kitsune: It's an evil and spectral fox, much like Reiko, Kiko and Koryo;
  • genko: Black Kitsune, usually seen as a good omen;
  • Kiko: Spirit of a fox;
  • kitsune: General term for the word "fox", can be portrayed as either good or bad;
  • Kitsune-Bi: Kitsune with the power to summon flames with their mouth and with their tail and transmutation;
  • koryo: cursed fox;
  • kuko: Air element foxes. Kukos are very bad, considered to be on the same level as Tengu, Japanese Goblin;
  • Kyuubi: They are the kitsunes who have reached 900 years and have 9 tails, they gain the ability to be able to see and hear everything anywhere in the world. They also acquire infinite wisdom, omniscience;
  • reiko: Ghost of a fox, not evil, but definitely wicked;
  • Shakko: Red Kitsune, can be considered both good and bad;
  • Shouzaa: Spirit Seiryu, supervisor of the foxes;
  • tenko: Heavenly Kitsune Elite of the kitsune, are those that have reached 1,000 years of age. Normally at this age kitsune already have 9 tails and their coat changes color to silver or gold;
  • Yako / Yakan: yako (野狐? literally, evil foxes)

nogitsune: Wild Kitsunes, is usually used to differentiate between Good and Bad Kitsunes. So they use the term "Kitsune" for Good Kitsunes. and they use "Nogitsune" for all those who deceive people and are considered bad. Nogitsunes are not evil, they just like to deceive people.

As we can see, there are several types, both good and bad. It is common in anime to see references to these animals. In anime like Natsume yuuchinchou, Pokemon, No Game No Life among others.

Kitsune - foxes in Japanese culture
How beautiful is the fox

The artigo is still half finished, but we recommend opening it to read the following later:

The Nine-Tailed Fox

A long time ago, in the beginning of things, when there was only the Heavenly Realm, the Creator Goddess Izanami [伊邪那美命] gave birth to twins, the Fire God Kagutsuchi [軻遇突智] and the Sun Goddess Amaterasu [天照].

The Creator Goddess Izanami was severely burned by the birth of the Fire Gods, which caused her ultimate death. The twins born were rebellious, cruel and vain, being driven by their fire energy to desire power at any cost.

Rejecting the Celestial Realm of their Parents, Izanagi and Izanami , the Sun Goddess Amaterasu and the Fire God Kagutsuchi created the Fire Demon Realm Oni No Seka , so that they could rule shamelessly and separate from the celestial government.

The Sun Goddess Amaterasu [天照] longed for beauty and power, and she was never happy with her appearance. Then she changed shape at will. She took the form of the elegant and cunning fox with her sunbeams forming her nine fluttering tails.

Thus became the mother of all fallen shapeshifters. She took on the name Kyukon [キュウコン], which is a combination of kyū [九] meaning nine and kon [恨] meaning curse, representing the nine tails or curses she would inflict on mankind.

Kitsune - foxes in Japanese culture
Amaterasu the Sun Goddess

Anime with Kitsune (Foxes)

Most anime that mix Japanese mythology, usually deal with something related to foxes, especially the goddess Amaterasu as in the classic Naruto. What few are unaware of are anime focused on Japanese foxes.

You can see some of these anime in our articles of Mythological Anime and animal anime. Of course, our main objective is to show some of these anime below:

Gugure Kokkuri-San

The story revolves around a girl named Kohina who is summoned by a Kokkuri-san, a low-level ghost in Japanese folklore. The Kokkuri-san she calls turns out to be a handsome young man with white hair.

At first, he intended to simply haunt her, but soon he worries about his terrible habit of eating a cup of ramen for every meal. He later decides to haunt her to protect her. The anime features several mythological creatures from Japanese folklore, including foxes.

Kitsune - foxes in Japanese culture

Kamisama Hajimemashita

Kamisama Hajimemashita is a shoujo romance comedy anime that has a kitsune protagonist. The Anime tells the story of Nanami, a girl evicted from her home due to her gambling addicted father, who abandoned her and ran away with a lot of debts. 

While wandering the streets, Nanami meets a man who, upon learning of her story, offers her his house to live in, which is actually an abandoned temple in which she becomes the deity of this place.

Kitsune - foxes in Japanese culture

Inu x Boku

Shirakiin Ririchiyo, tormented by the flattery and mistreatment that her family name has inflicted on her throughout her life, decides to move away and be alone, until she learns to be confident enough to interact with people without being rude or hurting them. .

Her parents only agree to this if she goes to live at Maison de Ayakashi, commonly known as Casa Ayakashi, a luxurious condominium where only those who are selected can reside. But the truth is that this house hides another secret.

Kitsune - foxes in Japanese culture

Other Fox Anime

There are other anime, movies and OVAs with foxes that go unnoticed by the public. We'll list them all below, starting from the best to the worst. I haven't watched any anime on the list to judge, their grades aren't high either.

Responsive Table: Scroll the table to the side with your finger >>
The Helpful Fox Senko-sanTV2019
black foxMovie2019
Cheonnyeon-yeowoo YeowoobiMovie2007
Gingitsune: Messenger Fox of the GodsTV2013
Our Home's Fox DeityTV2008
Chironup no KitsuneMovie1987
Voice of FoxTV2018
Namake GitsuneMovie1941
Kitsune no Home Run OrMovie1949
Kitsune to CircusMovie1948
Mang Nu Yu HuliMovie1982
Fox Wood MonogatariOVA1991
Kitsune to BudouOVA1998
Kogitsune no OkurimonoOVA1993
Kyuubi no Kitsune to Tobimaru (Sesshouseki)Movie1968

Zao Kitsune Mura - Village of foxes in Japan

In Japan, we've seen things like cat island, rabbit island and the deer city. There is also the village of foxes. That's right, a village full of foxes walking on snow in the mountains.

Fox Village is located near Shiroishi in Miyagi Prefecture, it is called Zao Fox Village or Zao Kitsune Mura. In the village the foxes roam freely and visitors can interact with them, feed and take lots of pictures.

Foxes are popular creatures in Japanese folklore, there is even a Sanctuary dedicated to foxes, as foxes are said to be messengers of the deity Inari. Many visit this village just to see the beautiful foxes that roam in the snow.

Zao kitsune mura - fox village in japan

beyond the foxes kawaii, there are other animals in the village like rabbits. Like any tourist place, here you will find restaurants and souvenir shops with many products related to foxes. If you go for a walk in Miyagi, be sure to visit Zao Kitsune Mura.

There are six different types of foxes, who run and interact with visitors. When you pay the entrance, you receive a little food to give to the animals, however, you should not feed them with your hands because although they look adorable and harmless, foxes are wild.

When visiting the fox village you will pay approximately 1000 yen to access. Be careful with the animals, they can bite you if you crouch too close. As foxes are territorial animals, be careful with belongings and backpacks, they might try to piss on them.

Zao kitsune mura - fox village in japan
  • You can see more details about the village on its official website: Zao Kitsune Mura
  • Address: 〒 989-0733 Miyagi, Shiroishi, Fukuokayatsumiya, Kawarago−11−3‎
  • Phone: +81 224-24-8812

To finish the article, we are going to leave 2 beautiful videos so you can get to know this village full of foxes.

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