Japanese Kitsune (PART ONE)

Alright crazies – here’s trickster number two. (I just so happen to have a kitsune in one of my two current novels.) *drum roll please*…

The Japanese Kitsune is pretty well known but still not very mainstream. I am told that it’s used in Anime and Manga. However, I’ve also been told that only one facet of the kitsune is shown in these, whereas the Kitsune mythology it is derived from has a certain depth.

The first trickster I talked about was the Celtic Puka (you can read about it here). After joining WANAtribe, I came to find that a few authors are using puka in their current Work In Progress; which is totally neat!

I’ll be interested to see how many of you know about the kitsune and where from.

This turned out to be way too long of a post for me to post all together, so I’m splitting it up into two to spare you. What it all entails:


The bold categories are the ones covered in this first post.

Attribution: Shiretoko-Shari Tourist Association








Kitsune is the Japanese word for “fox”.

There is much debate on whether or not the Japanese had their own Kitsune lore before China and Korea’s influence. Kiyoshi Nozaki (Japanese folklorist) says that as early as the 4th century A.D. the Japanese regarded the kitsune as positive. He says that it was the Chinese and Korean influences that gave the kitsune its negative attributes.

The name for the Chinese Kitsune is “Huli jing”. In Cantonese and Mandarin, huli jing is slang for home wrecker.

The Korean name for Kitsune is “kumiho”. The kumiho was once considered helpful for humans but now they are considered bloodthirsty creatures that eat humans.

Some say the folklore of the kitsune began in India, traveled to Korea and China and then to Japan, who molded it into their own lore due to their love for the fox.

I take no measures to suppose I know what the truth of this matter is. I simply like the lore.



Normally there are two:

  • Myobu – benevolent
  • Nogitsune – mischievous, malicious

Other classifications:

  • Genko – all black fox
  • Byako – all white fox
  • Ninko – invisible fox spirit that humans can only perceive when it possess them.
  • Other lore classifies the Kitsune into 13 different types according to their abilities.


The kitsune are creatures who enjoy sensations. It makes much sense that they are mostly known as lovers. They are the Japanese trickster though and in many stories this shows; as they can be mischievous or outright cruel if provoked or wronged. Even when portrayed as lovers they are still a trickster at heart.

The kitsune are not seen as a creature human or animal, even when taking a human or fox form. They are seen as something utterly different to the Japanese. Some creature not of this world.

They are known for their superior intelligence, incredibly long lives, and supernatural/magickal abilities that grow stronger as they age.



This is where things get a little confusing. The kitsune can appear in the mortal realm in one of five different ways.

ONE: As a spirit – a kami. This is the most rare and difficult to pull off. If a kami appears on its own it should be taken as an omen or is due to an abnormal thinness in the fabric of the human and spirit worlds, allowing for the kitsune to cross over in its true spirit form. Under any other circumstance, the kami must be summoned or needed. The kami cannot remain for very long because they have no physical tie to the human realm. There are no specifics on what they look like.

  • When appearing as kami, they need to be near their element – whichever one that may be. They feed off of their element, giving them the energy and fuel they need, remaining healthy enough to stay here.
  •  Summoning a kami requires a lot of power and energy.
  • The natural balance is thrown off due to their presence and sickness and death are brought. Livestock die, poor health circulates the village, etc.
  •  Sometimes great death is required to summon the kami.

TWO: Possession of a human – Kitsunetsuki. The kitsune can possess humans in one of three ways.

ONE – Live human. In most cases the kitsune prefer to posses humans who give their will up to the kitsune; someone who wants to be possessed. However, there have been accounts of malicious kitsune not needing human choice to be a factor and have possessed them against their will. Regardless, once the kitsune possesses the human, the human’s will is gone.

The kitsune does not normally remain in the possessed body for very long.

TWO – A corpse. For a kitsune to possess a corpse, the correct burial rites must not have been performed. In some lore when corpses arise a kitsune it is not due to possession but the human being who died transcending into a kitsune, becoming immortal.

For both the corpse and live human:

  • Only women are possessed. Their facial expressions are known to change to fox-like features. Illiterate victims become literate and can speak in languages they never knew. They eat much more food than a normal human.
  • In Japan Kitsunetsuki was considered a real disease and often used as the reason for mental illness until the 20th century. Even physical diseases that caused fevers were blamed by fox possession. Strange behaviors were explained away by this. Some still believe this.
  • Even when kitsune were to possess a human body they preferred to shift into the form of a fox. Some lore explains the reason as being the difference between the kitsune and human’s morals.

THREE – The kitsune can also attempt to possess an unborn child (while still in the mother’s womb). When this happens, the mother becomes sick until childbirth. Once the child is born it becomes sick. From there, either the infant dies from sickness or the kitsune succeeds in possessing it and it is then the kitsune.

THREE: Possession of a fox. Normally a red fox, although they can be all white or all black (this is rare). Pretty straight forward – they possess a fox.

FOUR: Kitsune and Human Offspring. This is not bestiality. One parent was a human and the other a kitsune in the form of a human. Their offspring will then be kitusune but may live in the human realm as mortals. They normally have supernatural qualities. A kitsune having seduced a human and having kitsune offspring is the easiest way for a kitsune (the offspring) to remain in the human realm without throwing off the balance of nature.

FIVE: The confusing part. Nowhere does it state that the kitsune are always possessing a fox when in fox form. This must mean that kitsune can naturally be born a fox. I’m really lost in this grey area and if anyone knows of kitsune lore and can correct me or point me in the way of correct information, please do so. If I’m wrong, then this means the kitsune have no real fox or human form and they are only living inside another like a vessel; never to truly look like themselves. This grosses me out so I’m going to use my ignorance of anything stating this outright as obvious fact and say they must just be able to be born a fox. Possession being something completely different.

When they appear as a human their shadow is normally that of a fox. In some folklore their reflection is of their true form – a fox.

Okay so, this is the first half. In a few days I’ll post what the kitsune can do, what they’re like, the issue of payment, what sex is like with a kitsune, and their weakness.

What do you think so far? Have you ever heard of the kitsune? If so, from where and how does this compare? Speak to me people! 😉



Filed under The Odd Bit

11 responses to “Japanese Kitsune (PART ONE)

  1. Pingback: Halloween Fun and Safety | DaphneShadows

  2. Pingback: 5 Things Blogging Has Taught Me | DaphneShadows

  3. Pingback: Japanese Kitsune – Trickster #2 (PART TWO) | daphneshadows

  4. Zen

    Interesting post! I was aware that the kitsune is used to imply mischief and trickery from watching anime. There’s one show called Rurouni Kenshin where a woman is constantly referred to as “Kitsune” because of her mischievous ways.

  5. Hey Daphne. Great stuff! I have nominated you for a One Lovely Blog Award 🙂

  6. I’ve actually heard of these when I was reading Japanese folklore for my extended essay. It just called these creatures foxes, but I remember multiple stories of women seducing people and then turning into foxes and running away. I guess those are probably the same thing.

    • Yes, exactly! In most cases the women (foxes) seduced the men, had children or gained something else, then when they were found out or had what they wanted, they ran off. That’s them.
      There actually were cases where the woman fell in love with the human and they stayed together, though non-tragic endings are few and far between.
      What’s your extended essay on? Just Japanese folklore in general?

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