The Kitsune Of Japan

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The Kitsune Of Japan


In the dark of evening

The fox’s trap

Is easy to make

Throughout Asia, murmurs of a malignant spirit are whispered amongst families. Whilst this spirit may seem benign and unharmful, do not be fooled. For this spirit is sly as a fox. In fact, the Kitsune is actually a fox spirit. In this episode of Meet my Monsters we will be discussing the Kitsune and its presence briefly in China and Korea and  slightly more in depth in Japan.

Essentially, the Kitsune shares a basic set of similar attributes across all three areas. But there are a few things which differ. For instance, in Japan, a Kitsune can appear in both male and female form, whereas in the other areas, it only appears as female.

However, a common thread held amongst all three areas is that an encounter with a kitsune is generally not lucky, as they are considered to be mostly evil creatures.

The Nine Tails

You can tell the age of a kitsune based on how many tails the fox has. This is synonymous through all of the areas. It is said that a fox will grow an additional tail for every century it lives. The maximum tails it will grow is nine. This signifies the oldest and wisest kitsune. Naturally, this means the fox was 900 years old, or in some rarer cases, even older.

It is also said that a kitsune must first gain sufficient life-force and grow to be at least 500 years old in order to transform into human form.

But without further ado, let’s discover more about the kitsune in the three areas.

The Korean Kumiho

In Korea, you would happen upon a Kumiho. This spirit would always take its human form in the shape of a woman. However, this does not mean that the fox itself was female. A Kumiho can begin shapeshifting from the age of 100, however in order to do so, it will need the use of a human skull, which is placed upon its head. It can also transform into a human by eating the person they’d like to become.

This person, however, isn’t their victim. The Kumiho will transform into someone familiar to their victim, in order to gain their trust.

You see, the Kumiho wishes for intelligence, and steals knowledge from humans through a marble carried in its mouth. Usually, the Kumiho will kiss their victim and drain them of their life-force and knowledge through this marble.

This assists the Kumiho in turning into a powerful being.

How to spot a Kumiho

If you suspect someone of being a Kumiho, pay special attention to their actions and speech. Often, a Kumiho will act differently to the person they are trying to portray, either by eating something or saying something that the person generally would not.

Other ways to suss out a Kumiho is to:

  • Look at their eye colour: often the Kumiho will have a different eye colour to the original person
  • Notice Their Speech: Kumiho will speak in old fashioned phrases, not familiar to current times
  • Its Tail: a Kumiho will still have its tail, even when in human form. A Kumiho will never turn its back to you so as to hide their tail

The Chinese Huli Jing

In China, the Huli Jing once more will only ever take on the human form of a woman. However, this spirit sets its sights high in terms of the victim it chooses. The Huli Jing will only pursue relations with men of great power such as generals or even emperors. They do this in the hopes of influencing the political state for their own amusement.

The Huli Jing will usually be incredibly kind, loving and supportive towards her male partner. However, she is cruel and vicious towards other females within the household.

She enjoys playing cruel and most often fatal tricks on female servants and family members within the household. However, when the person dies, it always comes across as being an accident so she is never to blame.

The man in question will always grow into power relatively quickly, gaining fame through immense amounts of wealth and land. However, once the man begins to age and go senile, or if the Huli Jing manages to depleat him of all of his energy, she will leave him, taking with her her beauty and good fortune. As such, the man is left stripped of all luxuries he once possessed, pining for the woman he loved.

An interesting rendition of the Huli Jing can be found in the Chinese classic text; Of Mountains and Seas,

“There is a beast shaped like a fox with nine tales, it sounds like a baby, it eats men.”

The Huli Jing will cry out like a baby, luring men to their death. For when they go see to the infant in distress, the Huli Jing will quickly devour them.

The  Kitsune Of Japan

The Kitsune of Japan is the most popular and commonly used name for this fox spirit. And this hails from Japan. The first use of the word, Kitsune, can be found in Shin’yaku Kegonkyō Ongi Shiki, which dates back to 794. However, possibly the most famous story of the Kitsune can be found in the Nihon Ryouiki which was written between 787 – 824 and loosely translates to Ghostly Strange Records from Japan.

It goes as follows:

There once was a very lonely man who was hard at work on his farm. He worked day in and day out and had plenty of food to eat and a nice home which he cared for, but he had not a wife. He had searched for many years for a woman to make his own but could never find one suitable enough.

One day while he was about in his field, he looked up to find a staggeringly beautiful woman, she could be nothing less than a Lady, and he fell in love immediately. He asked that she marry him, explaining to her all he had and how he could take care of her and, to his great joy, she agreed.

The couple married and they lived very happily together for many years. To the farmers great joy his wife one day told him that finally she was with child and that they would be a complete family. He was overjoyed and took great care of his wife and their unborn child. When the baby was finally born, he found that his pet dog had also beget a single puppy.

He had hopes that the child and puppy would grow up together and be good companions but as the puppy grew it became increasingly hostile towards the farmer’s wife for no apparent reason. Months went by like this until one day the pup-turned-dog tore into the Lady’s arm, terrified for her life the woman vanished in a fit of robes and silks and in her place sat a fox with nine tales.

She looked up in surprised bewilderment and, realising what she had done, bolted out of the house and away from the angry jaws of the dog. Days, weeks, months went by and she did not return. The man was heartbroken, he loved his wife and missed her and did not care that she was really a fox-spirit. He cried for her every night, wondering the fields in despair, calling out in his voice that grew hoarse and broken from tears for her to please, “Kitsu-ne?”

Stories like this one are often common in Japanese literature. Furthermore, a few prominent historical figures claim to be born of a Kitsune mother. These include the priest En-No-Gyoja, and another priest, Abe-No-Seimei.

The Three Types Of Kitsune


The Youko is the most malignant type of Kitsune a person can come across in Japan. These are more demonic like spirits that have taken the shape of a fox. Similar to the poem of the Huli Jing mimicking a baby to lure its victims, so too will the Yuoko ensnare their prey.


These spirits are super cool and basically the Hermes of Japanese folk lore. For this type of Kitsune acts as a messenger for the Inari O-Kami. It swears to do no harm and merely convey messages between the spirits and humans alike. Often, you will see statues of this type of Kitsune at shrines and cemeteries, all adorning a red bib.


Finally, we have the most common type of Kistune, the Nogitsune. I say most common because these Kitsune are the type which interact most frequently with humans. Since they are not aligned with the Inari O-Kami, they can choose to be either good, or bad to the people they come across.

Kitsunetsuki – Posession By A Fox Spirit

This topic is super complicated and involves a Kitsune which isn’t actually a Kitsune. Kind of like an imposter Kitsune spirit. So in order to to not stuff up years of Japanese literature I will only give you the basics of this topic. A Kitsune spirit can possess either a human or a fox.

If a Kitsune possesses a person, all sorts of trouble will arise for not only that person, but their families alike. Kitsune possessions have led to the financial ruin of entire houses.

How to Expose A Kitsune

So, like most stories I tell there is an upside to a Kitsune encounter. You will be able to practice a few of these methods to suss out whether or not you are dealing with a Kitsune.

The first is probably the easiest thing to do and the first thing you should look for if you suspect to be in the presence of a Kitsune. Like the Korean Kumiho, a Kitsune’s tail and often ears will not be able to be concealed in human form.

Furthermore, so as to hide these features, a Kitsune will lurk in the shadows, seldom coming out.

Another thing to look for is pale, almost translucent skin. Due to lack of sun exposure, it is said that a Kitsune’s skin will be luminous.

A Kistune will often use speech which is outdated, as they often wait centuries before revealing themselves in their human forms. Furthermore, they may also speak exceptionally quickly, or incredibly slowly.

Another thing to note about language is that there are certain Japanese words which a Kitsune would struggle to say. These include the word, Moshi. As such, it has become common place for people to answer their doors, or even their cell phones with the question “Moshi-Moshi?” to which the person must respond “Moshi-Moshi” in return. Obviously if they falter, you’ve found your fox. To answer that age old question, what does the fox say, apparently, not moshi-moshi.

Check out your dog’s behaviour when in the presence of a suspected Kitsune. Just as in the old story of the farmer and his wife and the pup who attacked her, all dogs don’t dig Kitsune. Dogs will growl and attempt to chase a Kitsune.

Kitsune also posess the ability to turn invisible (how cool). Whilst this is uber cool as a party trick, it doesn’t help you s a person trying to catch the spirit which is mocking you. However, the Kitsune’s ahdow will not disappear. Therefore, try spot the shadow with the tails and ears of a fox.

Furthermore, you can catch them out by letting off smoke in the room, this will cling to their form, exposing their position. Furthermore, and just a tip, Kitsune don’t like the smell of incense.

Another awesome way to catch out a Kitsune is to look for its reflection. It will always be exposed by it. Therefore, Kitsune often avoid shiny surfaces, mirrors or even water to avoid being caught out. It was thought that women who did not own vanity mirrors in their homes were Kitsune.

Another great way to catch out a Kitsune is to lure it out with something known as Inarizushi. This is a type of sushi which contains tofu and rice which is then deep fried. It usually tastes really sweet. These things are irresitable to the Kitsune. When they pass them, they revert back to their fox form to devour the delicacy. So, if you want to catch out your Kitsune, get an order of Inarizushi to go!

How to Deal With a Kitsune

One of the most prominent ways to deal with a Kitsune is to just ignore them. They cannot take anything from you if you offer them nothing.

Another thing to do is to avoid people who stand in the shade, or speak about bad weather on a sunny day.

If you feel like you’re being followed, but see nothing but shadows and a flash of light, A) go home and get a clean pair of pants because if you’re like me you would’ve soiled yours, and b) run like hell because you’re probably being followed by a Kitsune.

What Do I Think A Kitsune Is?

Exactly what it is written to be. All smoke leads to a fire. Perhaps there were crafty woman in Japan who went about tricking high powered men into doing things for them. However I love the idea of the Kitsune. They are one hundred and fifty billion percent real so don’t mock them people!

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