The Kitsune Book
The hardest book to find on Japanese fox mythology that we know of is Kitsune: Japan's Fox of Mystery, Romance and Humor by Kiyosho Nozaki. Unfortunately, it is also one of the most interesting, having been written by an actual Japanese scholar. Published in 1961 by the Hokuseido Press, it is now long out of print and very hard to obtain copies of. For those of you who can't afford the collector-book prices out there and don't have access to a library with a copy of the book, we have taken it upon ourselves to scan, OCR, and post the text of this to the web in the interest of furthering scholarship on fox mythology.






Chapter 6 - THE FOX IN THE KONJAKU MONOGATARI (Continued) (Partial)

IN Japan, Kitsuné is considered to be the most interesting
and popular animal in tradition. You will find the
tradition of the fox existing everywhere you go in the
country. And Kitsuné is loved and worshiped by the
All the principal authorities on ancient customs and
ideas tell us that animal worship has prevailed in every
part of the globe. And whatever may be the origin of
this worship, a good authority on Hindu religion asserts
that it is to be accounted for by the working of one or
other of the motives of gratitude, fear, or awe,
operating separately in the separate cases. Men, in not
understanding the ways and powers of animals,
considered them as higher than themselves and hence
worshiped them and copied them in some of the habits.
In this connection, it is interesting to note how the
American Indians, good hunters as they were, feared
and worshiped the animals of woods and forests.
"The animal people lived," says an Indian legend,
"before the days of the first grandfather, long, long ago,
when the sun was new and no larger than a star, when
the earth was young, and the tall firs of the
forest no larger than an arrow."
A beautiful legend, this.
Indeed it was the fox, the Silver Fox, that created the
world, according to the legend of the Hat Creek Indians,
who live in the Northwest of America.
The word Kitsuné comes from two Japanese syllables:
kitsu and né. Kitsu is the sound made when a fox yelps,
and né is a word signifying an affectionate feeling, a
suitable name for such an interesting creature as a fox.
Foxes are rarely seen nowadays in Japan even in rural
districts. In ancient times, however, they would roam
about leisurely in any place, wagging their long pointed
muzzles and dragging their long busy tails.
Late at night, in the stillness of a deserted village, the
plaintive barking of a fox would be heard.
"Kitsu* is yelping. Kitsu is yelping again," a mother
would tell her infant, giving the breast to him in bed.
In ancient times, according to the Nihon Ryakki, one
of the oldest books of records, a great number of foxes
lived even in the national capital, Kyoto: In the reign of
the Emperor Kammu (737-806), foxes barked at night in
the Imperial Palace in December, 803; and in the reign of
the Emperor Saga (786-842), foxes walked up the stairs of
the Imperial Palace in September, 820.
Yoshida Kenko, the famous writer-recluse of the middle
part of the 14th century, writes in his Tsure-zuregusa as
*Kitsuné was called Kitsu in ancient times. Not an abbreviation here. (See the
chapter Fox in Poetry.)
"In the palace at Horikawa, a servant was bitten in
the leg by a fox while he was in bed fast asleep. A
petty priest of the Ninnaji temple was passing one
night in front of the main building of the temple when
three foxes attacked him. He unsheathed his sword to
defend himself and lunged at two foxes. One of them
was killed, the other two scampered away. The priest
was injured in several parts of his body. However
fortunately he was not so seriously wounded."
You can see by the above statement made by Kenko
that foxes were still rampant in the 14th century capital
of the country.
In Japan, says the Nihon Shoki, the annals compiled in
720, Kitsuné was formerly held in respect as an animal
of good omen. In 720 a black fox was presented from Iga
Province to the Emperor Gemmyo (661-726), an
empress-regnant, the founder of the capital of Nara.
However in the 10th and the llth centuries when
poetry was flourishing, Kitsuné was not treated with
affection. The animal, then, was merely considered to be
weird and uncanny. Kitsuné, in those days, was
associated in literature in general with such a thing as an
apparition or a wraith.
To understand the tales (including, of course, those of
Kitsuné) told in the era during which The Genji
Monogatari or The Konjaku Monogatari was written,
we must know the social conditions. The foregoing stories
were written in the epoch dominated, to all intents and
purposes, by the military men. And it must also be
remembered that the religion of these
military men was Power. Each of the war barons, who
wanted to be the master of the capital by conquering his
rival, had no leisure to resign himself to his fate. He
simply strove against it, casting aside effeminate fatalism.
He engaged in internecine feuds. He would break his
promises. And only the brave could win the laurels of
On the other hand, the masses in those days, who lived
in the world of disturbances, must have found themselves
exhausted physically and spiritually. They had previously
suffered under the tyrannical government. And now they
could not seek a place for peaceful living because of wars.
Therefore they were obliged to take refuge in superstition,
a natural course for them to take.
Superstition is a thing calculating and materialistic in
any age, common to all. Superstition instantly captivates the
masses by its momentary pleasure and immediate
advantage. It always avails itself of the disadvantages of
people. They lose their reason when blinded by superstition.
Thus there were two different currents in those days
power-worship and the addiction to superstition, as
seen in the military class and the lower people, phenomena
totally contradicting each other in nature. The faith of the
latter was under pressure by the former.
Now we must look back upon the later era the Édo
Era (1615-1847), during which such famous tales as The
Ugétsu Monogatari and The Hakken-den were written. We
find there a different aspect of life totally
different from that of the above-mentioned age.
Tokugawa-Iyéyasu, who assumed the reins of government
after Toyotomi-Hidéyoshi in the early part of the
17th century, was an extremely shrewd statesmangeneral.
He believed not only in Power, but also in
religion as a policy, and he was afraid of his fate after
death, like an ordinary man.
As for the populace in this era, they saw peace ensured
by the establishment of the Tokugawa shogun-ate.
However the class system, the samurai class and the
lower classes still existed. It was still the world of
samurai. In consequence, the populace could do nothing
but resort to their faith for the relief of their sufferings.
However after the insurrection of Shima-bara, a great
revolt of Christians in Kyushu in 1637, a strict
surveillance was exercised over religion their only
safety-valve. It was natural that they began to indulge
merely in pleasure.
The samurai class, at the same time, sank into
effeminacy by the neglect of military discipline; and
began to follow the example of the people in general as
they became used to peace. As a result, they became as
superstitious as the populace.
Tsunayoshi, the 5th Shogun of the Tokugawas, for
instance, believing blindly in the preaching of Priest
Ryuko, established several big temples and issued an
order to protect animals, especially dogs, because he was
born in the Year of the Dog (The year falling on one of
the twelve horary signs, Dog). Dogs, therefore, thrived,
and the streets of Édo, as might well be imagined, were
full of their feces, and they called Tsunayoshi the Dog-
Shogun. He was a wise and
learned shogun. However superstition made him such a
The literature, and especially the stories told of foxes in
those days, naturally reflect this tendency to superstition.
When, for instance, a maniac or maniacs appeared on the
street of Édo (present Tokyo) and cut women's hair and
they could not apprehend the culprits, they attributed the
offence to the act of Kitsuné, calling them hair-cutting
The hair-cutting Kitsuné was the town-talk in the days
of the great artist Utamaro (1753-1806). The outrageous
act must have caused considerable alarm among the
women at that time who prized their hair so much, as
shown in several block-printed genre-pictures.
To the minds of the people, Kitsuné seemed to take
delight: 1) in assuming the form of human beings; 2) in
bewitching human beings and 3) by possessing human
beings. The people of the Heian Era (781-1185) and the
Édo Era (1615-1867) believed in these things and the
superstition still survives in some rural districts of the
Kitsuné, it must be remembered, was real in the minds
of these people. They lived with Kitsuné. They shared
joy and sorrow with Kitsuné. They fell in love with
Kitsuné and Kitsuné was infatuated with men and
women, as you will read later in The Konjaku
Monogatari and other tales. The writers of these books, of
course, related stories about Kitsuné believing in
Kitsuné, the animal of romance and mystery.
The author of this book, therefore, sincerely hopes that
the reader will live with those people believing in
Kitsuné endowed with supernatural power. Then you can
appreciate him fully and enjoy the tales found in this


THE Inari shrine, one of the most popular and prosperous
shrines of Japan, is so closely related to Kitsuné tradition
that the animal, with the Japanese people in general, is
synonymous with the shrine.
The Inari shrine with its characteristic red torii (a
symbolic entrance to the precincts of a shrine) and a pair
of white fox images, the messengers of the deity, will be
found everywhere in the country in towns, in
villages and a miniature one, in private houses, geisha
houses, on department store roof gardens and other
The Inari shrine was originally erected in 711 as their
patron deity by the influential Hatas, the descendants of
the Korean prince naturalized in the 4th century.
Because of the fact that the Inari shrine is greatly
concerned with the tradition of the fox in Japan, I will
speak here about the shrine in detail.
The shrine is dedicated to Inari, the God of Rice. The
name Inari is derived from the word of iné, rice plant.
Inari means literally the growing of rice plants. It means,
in substance, rice crop. Rice, in Japan, is the symbol of
agriculture the symbol of life in ancient times. In the
phenomenon of the sprouting
of rice plants in the growth of rice plants, the young
and fresh spirit of the Inari God was to be felt. Thus the
name Inari was given by the founder of the shrine, the
Speaking of Inari it is interesting to note, from the
etymological point of view, that there are many
Japanese archaic words with the suffix of ri. For
Ika-ri (anger), oko-ri (origin), hika-ri (light), aka-ri
(source of light), ino-ri (prayer), mamo-ri (protection) ,
mino-ri (crop) and others.
As it is clearly seen from the above instances, the
Japanese suffix ri means something related closely to
the divine work or power of God: Ikari (anger) is a word
originally used in expressing a strong emotion aroused
at seeing a gushing spring. Later, this word was used in
expressing the intense feeling of God and men.
Okori (origin) means the power of Mother Nature.
Hikari (light) and akari (source of light) have something
to do with the mysterious power of God for which
human beings are grateful. Inori (prayer), in any
language, is the act of offering reverent petition,
especially to God. And, in the case of inari, meaning
ine-nari (rice crop), it signifies the fruit of the farmers'
labor gained by the grace of God.
All the foregoing words with the suffix of ri are
religious words. The name of Inari, therefore, was given
by the Hatas to their tutelary god out of gratitude to the
God of Rice.
Some people think that the white foxes, the guardians
and messengers of the shrine, are identical with the
deity of Inari. It is true that this is one of the
characteristics of the faith. However this, it must be
remembered, is only an aspect of the Inari faith. This
can be proved by the fact that the god of foxes has
never been deified in the Inari shrine as the object of
worship, though there is a tributary shrine dedicated
exclusively to the sacred white foxes in the precincts of
the shrine at Fushimi, Kyoto, the site of the great Inari
In former years, the Inari shrine was supposed to
have the senior grade of the first Court rank Sho-Ichii.
The fox gods, however, had no rank though they were
enjoying general popularity. To illustrate this point,
here is a poem by Issa, a haiku poet of the early 19th
century, a humorous haiku composed by him on the
occasion of the festival of Hatsu-uma held annually at
the Inari shrines throughout the country in February:
O spring season's gaieties!
The white foxes bark
In a festive mood
With no Court rank of mark.
The white foxes of the Inari shrine are also called
myobu. Here is the legend why they are so named:
In the reign of the Emperor Ichijyo (980-1011), there
lived a charming Court lady with a rank of myobu (a
Court rank conferred on ladies) whose name was Shinno-
Myobu. She was a devotee of Inari God. She
went to the shrine at Fushimi, Kyoto, to confine herself
there for prayer for a period of seven days. After she
had completed her term of worship, it is said, she won
the heart of the Mikado and later became his consort.
She attributed her good luck to the white foxes guarding
the shrine and the name of myobu was given to them.
And here is a mythological story telling us how the
white foxes became connected with the Inari shrine:
To the north of the capital, Kyoto, there lived a pair of
very old white foxes in the neighborhood of Funaoka
hill. The he-fox was a silver-white-furred animal and
looked as if he were wearing a garment of bristling
silver needles. He always kept his tail raised while
walking. The she-fox had a deer's head with a fox's
body. Their five cubs would follow them wherever they
went. Each of these cubs had a different face.
During the Koin Era (810-823), the two white foxes,
accompanied by the five cubs, made their way to the
Inari shrine at Fushimi leaving their earth near Funaoka
hill. When they reached the Inari-yama hill on which
the shrine stood, they prostrated themselves in front of
the shrine and said reverently:
"O Great God! We are naturally gifted with wisdom
though we were born as animals. Now we sincerely wish
to do our part for the peace and prosperity of the world.
We regret, however, that we are not able to realize our
purpose. O Great God! We pray from the bottom of our
hearts that you would graciously allow us to become
members of the household of this shrine so that we will
be able to realize our humble wish!"
Greatly impressed by the sincerity with which these
words were spoken, the sacred altar of the shrine instantly
shook as if by an earthquake. And the next moment, the
foxes heard the solemn voice of the Inari God coming
from behind the sacred bamboo screen:
"We are always endeavoring to find some means to
bestow the divine favor of Buddha on all men by doing
our best. Your desire, foxes, is really praiseworthy. We
will allow you, all of you, to stay here to do your service
in this shrine forever. We expect you to assist with
sympathy the worshipers and the people in general with
the faith. We order you, He-Fox, to serve at the Upper
Temple. We give you the name of Osusuki. And you,
She-Fox, shall serve at the Lower Temple. We give you
the name of Akomachi."
Hereupon each of the foxes including the five cubs
made ten oaths and began to comply with the wishes of
all the people. (It is generally believed that if any person
with the Inari faith actually sees the natural shape of a
white fox, or even sees it in a dream, he is receiving a
divine revelation of the God of Inari through the medium,
the messengers of the deity.)
And here is a reliable record of how the white foxes of
the shrine became closely connected with the Inari God:
Imperial Princess Toyuké, Goddess of Crops, to whom
the Inari shrine is dedicated, was commonly called
Goddess Mi-Kétsu. People wrote the word of Mi-Kétsu
using a phonetic equivalent of Mi-Kétsu
Three Foxes. Since then they believed that the deity was
a fox-deity and also were under the impression that the
Inari shrine was sacred to Kitsuné, a fact proving that the
thought of ancestor-worship was combined with that of
Consequently they thought that when they had faith in
the Inari God, the fox-messenger would make its
appearance doing an act of charity and benevolence. (See
the legend of Sanjyo Kokaji, the swordsmith, appearing
in the chapter Fox in No Plays.) Thus the fox-faith
nourished throughout the country.
It is a well-known fact that all religions had a messenger
for the communication of God and men. In
Christianity, for instance, we see the Holy Sheep or
angels effecting the connection between the celestial
world and the lower world, and we also see other
messengers transmitting the Christian doctrine.
In the case of Buddhism, we see a sort of Buddha,
Bodhi-sattva, next to Buddha in rank, and also Jizo
(Ksitigarbha), a guardian deity of children. They are the
messengers of Buddha endeavoring to bring about the
redemption of all men. (See these messengers of Buddha
appearing in the tales of The Konjaku Monogatari, to be
introduced later.) And Inari God has the white foxes as
his messengers. There are many messengers in the
service of temples and shrines in Japan such as: Snakes,
Pigeons, Crows, Deer, etc.
In this connection, it must be added that the foxes in
the service of Inari God have nothing to do with the
bewitchery or mischief of other foxes which are
commonly called nogitsuné, or wild foxes. One of the
duties of the Inari shrine at Fushimi in Kyoto was to
purge or chastise these nogitsuné. The direct descendants
of the Hatas, founder of the shrine, had a secret method
of driving away wild foxes possessing men.
There is a very interesting document treasured in the
Onishi family, the descendants of the Hatas, a note sent
to the shrine from Toyotomi-Hidéyoshi, the Tycoon
(1536-1598), the first commoner in Japan to rise to the
highest state office, and the unifier of the Japanese
The note was written by Hidéyoshi when the daughter
of his adopted son, Ukita-Hidéiyé, was reported suffering
from fox-possession. It runs as follows:
To the Inari God:
Ukita's daughter is now babbling, apparently
possessed by a wild fox. I hope that the fox will '
be dispersed immediately. When no suitable
measures be taken, a nation-wide fox-hunt will
be ordered.
The chief priest of the Yoshida shrine* also
notified concerning this matter.
Hidéyoshi (signature)
Note: Sending a note of protest to a god demanding him to
drive away a wild fox supposedly possessing his adopted son's
daughter is Hidéyoshi's way of doing things. Hidéyoshi reflects
the spirit of the age: He believed in Power. However he also
believed in the Inari God, and built the two-storied gate of the
*Also a shrine in Kyoto with Kitsuné messengers.


IN The Konjaku Monogatari, or Tales, Present and Past,
you will find many stories relative to Kitsuné and the
book treats of Kitsuné, in literature, as a hero or heroine,
for the first time in Japan. It is appropriate, therefore, to say
a few words concerning the book and its author.
The Konjaku Monogatari is a rare book written by
Minamoto-no-Takakuni, known as Uji Dainagoft (1004-
1077) in the closing years of the Heian Era (781-1185).
The oldest as a collection of narratives in Japanese, the
book consists of 31 volumes, divided into Three Sections:
Tenjiku (ancient name for India), Shintan (ancient name for
China) and Japan.
A wonderful book, this. The author was evidently a man
who read extensively and learned abundantly by hearsay.
He possessed many friends in every walk of life. He was
energetic, systematic, accurate, and wrote with a powerful
pen. Nobody could hope to start such a great work, and
finish with success, unless he were a man holding views
above the general level of opinion.
In the book, the Section of Tenjiku comes first,
followed by Shintan and Japan. The author compiled the
book in this order out of respect toward Tenjiku, the
country in which Buddhism arose and where Sakyamuni
was born and Shintan, the country of culture the two
great nations to which Japan owed a debt of gratitude.
Why did Takakuni write this book of narratives,
comparable only with such books as AEsop's Fables or The
Arabian Nights' Entertainments? Did he finish the work
just finding it an occupation to his taste? Without any
meaning? Without any prime object? And did he simply
endeavor to collect and record tales of a strange nature?
In Japan, in the latter part of the remote ages, Buddhism,
became more and more popular, and it was at the zenith of
its prosperity in the early years of the 9th century after the
brilliant Nara Era (645-780). Meanwhile, with the lapse of
time, the old trend of things had been superseded by the
traditions of China, and those of India coming through
China had a great influence on the Japanese people in
ideas and in knowledge.
The author of The Konjaku Monogatari, no doubt, added
the two sections of Tenjiku and Shintan for the purpose of
enlightening people concerning the two great countries of
culture and wisdom. Takakuni told them, through his work,
of things which were being preached and observed in
Tenjiku and Shintan as the truth, and therefore, he thought,
should be observed in Japan.
Takakuni taught in his narratives that the law of
nature was firm and stable forever, like the sun shining
high up in the sky. And he preached by telling them that it
was Buddhism that taught them this everlasting truth. He
informed them of the importance of knowing the great
truth of samsara, or transmigrationism, and karma or
inevitable retribution.
With this in mind, Takakuni gave to the Japanese people
the narratives he had garnered. Therefore on many
occasions, he never forgot to tell the people of karma, the
inevitable consequences of some fault committed in a
previous state of existence even when he was speaking of
worldly things. However it is interesting to see that he was,
on the other hand, a humorous person, a fact shown well in
some of his tales.
The Konjaku Monogatari teaches us to be grateful,
sympathetic, to keep to our sphere in life warning us not
to despise other people, not to be captivated by beautiful
women, not to go anywhere without any knowledge of the
place, not to confide in anybody (reflecting the conditions
of life in those days) even in one's wife, and so on.
The Genji Monogatari, written by Murasaki Shikibu,
Lady Purple, deals almost exclusively with the life of the
upper classes. When we read the Genji, the Book of Love
and Romance of the handsome Imperial prince and the
beautiful ladies, we breathe the very air of the brilliant
Heian Era with the Court noblemen, effeminate and
superstitious and the gay and intellectual noblewomen.
In The Konjaku Monogatari, however, we meet the
common people as well as noblemen and noblewomen.
And the fact that Buddhism, especially the Tendai sect (a
sect the fundamental doctrine of which is the Sutra of the
Lotus) was prevalent at that time is clearly reflected in the
Takakuni also extolls the benevolence of Kanzéon, or the
Goddess of Mercy, and Jizo, the guardian deity of children.
He believes in the transmigration of the soul. Many
phantoms in various forms including Kitsuné appear in the
narratives. However as in the case of later years, they are
not ferocious or wicked in nature. They are, to my mind,
rather good-natured, and they reveal their true character
easily when cornered.
Minamoto-no-Takakuni came of a noble family. His
grandfather was an Imperial prince of the Emperor Daigo
(385-930); and Fujiwara-no-Michinaga, the most influential
Prime Minister in the age, was his uncle. Still, according to
the records, he was democratic enough to invite travelers
passing in front of his mansion at Uji, near Kyoto, the
capital; and he wrote The Konjaku Monogatari by listening
to what they told him.
Reading the book, we learn the manners and customs, the
thoughts, morality and superstitions of the people of the
Heian Era as well.
Now before we proceed with such tales as those found in
The Konjaku Monogatari, containing a great number of the
foxes resorting to their subtle art of bewitchery, we deem it
necessary to tell you concerning the matter of
metamorphosis in general.
It is true that the folklore relative to such a thing as
bewitchery, or metamorphosis, is now regarded as
concerning things of the past. However in Japan, the idea
of the mysterious power of Kitsuné is deep-rooted among
the populace; and a superstition such as Inu-gami1 or Hébigami
2 is still prevalent in some rural districts in the country,
and the case of Kitsuné-mochi3 or Izuchi-mochi4 is also
prevalent in some part of Japan.
Such things as these, no doubt, are a superstition
fermented by tradition. However it cannot be denied that
there is in each of them a fixed form. Why there is such
a fixed form?
Now let us study the metamorphosis tradition of such an
animal as Kitsuné. In the form of metamorphosis, there is a
difference between the case of a human being turning
himself into an animal; and the case when an animal
changes its shape into a human being. An interesting
contrast will be observed between these cases.
And there is also a forma fixed one in the conjugal
relation between human beings and animals in tradition.
For instance, there exists in legend some hindrance in the
marriage of human being and serpents
1 Literally, Dog-god. A sort of possession by evil spirits. The natural shape of it,
however, is not a dog. Supposed to be an animal about the size of a rat with a
supernatural power.
2 Literally, Snake-god. A sort of possession by the evil spirit of a small snake.
3 A specific family supposed to have a supernatural power through the influence of
4 Same as Kitsuné-mochi.
(as seen in the case of a man marrying a serpent in the
guise of a charming girl, in The Ugétsu Monogatari by
Akinari), or otters or badgers, animals supposed to have the
power of turning themselves into human forms. In the case
of the union of human beings and foxes, they do not have
any such drawback.
In the tradition of a human being changing his form into
that of an animal, there is no record of matrimony between
the person changing his form and other human beings.
However, in the case of an animal changing its shape into
that of a human being and the real human being, you will
find many tales of matrimony.
The case of the human being changing his form into such
an animal as a fox or the case of the human being joining
the fox family by marrying a fox will be found in the
legends of China. However in the case of the latter, the
form of the human being is not changed: He will just
become a fox-man without changing his form, though
perhaps, a slight change may be seen in his appearance or
In this connection, it may be added that there are many
stories of foxes turning themselves into women, but no
stories of women assuming the shape of foxes in any
Japanese fox-tradition.
There are various ways in the art of bewitching men on
the part of Kitsuné. The method of metamorphosis differs
according to the districts. Kitsuné is supposed to emit fire,
Kitsuné-bi, by stroking its busy tail. And it is also believed
that it will put a skull on its head and bow in veneration to
the Dipper before turning itself into a human shape. When
the skull does not
fall off, it will be able to turn itself into a human form
successfully, it is said.
As the method of assuming a human form, especially a
beautiful girl, Kitsuné adopts the process of covering its
head with duckweed or reeds. Japan's fox is an expert in
changing itself into any form, and its specialty is assuming
the shape of a charming and seductive woman, to captivate
a young man and an old gentleman susceptible to female
According to the fox-marriage legend, the fox in the
guise of a pretty woman will lead men into temptation to
satisfy its desire. All the foxes will turn themselves into the
shape of fascinating women and exhaust the energy of their
victims. The men victimized, it is believed, are to die,
sooner or later.
Kitsuné, as you will read in such a book as The
Konjaku Monogatari, is an animal wanton by nature. It
is supposed to satisfy its desire by having relations with
men through the art of bewitchery. Apart from the
question of the possibility of this, you will notice, in the
fox tradition, that Kitsuné is making use of its superior
brains in various ways in bewitching men. This is the
time-honored tradition of Japan in regard to the
bewitchery of Kitsuné.


The Story of a Young Samurai Who
Copied the Sutra of the Lotus
For the Repose of a Fox's Soul
ONCE there was a young and handsome samurai
living in Kyoto, the capital, name unknown.
One evening, on his way home, he was passing near
the Shujaku gate of the Imperial palace when he saw a
girl with a graceful figure, about 18 years old, attired in
an exquisite robe of silk, standing on the main road.
She looked so beautiful with her raven-black locks
straying in the gentle breeze that the samurai was
instantly fascinated by her. He approached the girl and
invited her to go inside the gate and have a chat for a
while with him. She complied with his request, to his
great delight.
They stayed in a quiet place inside the gate and
talked together. Soon the stars began to twinkle here and
there in the sky and even the Milky Way was seen
faintly. It was a balmy evening.
Said the young man: "We have met here by a happy
chance-by the Providence of God, I might say. Therefore
you should accede to my request-in every way. We
should share the same feelings. I love you-and you must
love me."
Answered the girl: "If I comply with your request in
every way, I must die. This is my 1ot.''
"Your lot-to die?" the young samurai echoed her
words, "It is hardly possible. You are simply avoiding
me by saying so."
And he tried to gather her up in his arms.
The girl shook herself loose from his grasp, and said
tearfully: "I know you are living with your wife; and that
you are telling me you love me on the spur of the
I am weeping because I must die for a man of
He denied what she said, again and again until she
acquiesced. In the meantime the stars and the Milky
Way were shining more brightly in the heavens. A night
of romance.
They found a shed in the neighborhood, and spent
the night together there. A lone cricket was heard
chirping throughout the night....
The summer morning broke soon. The girl said:
"Now I am going home-to die because of you, as I told
you last evening. When I pass away, please say a mass
for the repose of my soul by copying the Sutra of the
Lotus and offering it to the merciful Buddha'' Said the
young man: "It is the way of the world that man and
woman have intimate relations with each other. You are not
destined to die necessarily. However if you should die, I
will not fail to do as you wish. I promise."
Said the girl sadly, tying back her stray locks: "If you
care to see whether what I am now telling you is true or
not, come to the neighborhood of the Botoku-den* this
The young samurai could not believe what was told
him by the beautiful girl.
She said in a mournful tone: "Let me keep your fan
as a memento."
She took the fan. He took her hand, and looked
straight into her eyes.
He followed her outside, and stood looking after the
departing figure until it faded into the grayish veil of the
morning mist.
The young man could not bring himself to believe
what the girl had said. However during the morning, he
went to the neighborhood of the Butoku-den as he was
very anxious to know the fate of the girl.
There he saw an old woman sitting on a stone,
bitterly weeping.
"Why are you crying so? What is the matter with
you, old woman?" he asked her.
"I am the mother of the girl you saw near the
Shujaku gate last night. She is now dead,'' she answered.
*The place where the Emperor used to see archery on horseback, horse
races, and the like. Located to the west of the Imperial palace.
"Dead?" the young man said with a dubious look.
"Yes, she is dead. I have been waiting for you here to
break the sad news to you. The dead person is lying over
So saying, the old woman pointed to a corner of the big
hall and the next moment she was gone like magic no one
knows where.
The young samurai, approaching the spot pointed, found
a young fox lying dead on the floor, its face covered with
an open white fan, the very fan given by him!
"So this fox was the girl I met last night!" he said
mournfully to himself. He could not help but feel pity for
the poor fox.
He returned home with a heavy heart.
He started copying the Sutra of the Lotus immediately,
as was requested by the fox in the form of a beautiful girl.
He found the task a hard one. However, he copied one
sutra every week and offered it to Buddha and prayed for
the repose of the soul of the dead fox, night and day.
One night, about six weeks later, the young samurai
dreamed a dream, a strange dream in which he met the
beautiful girl. She looked so noble and divine that he
thought her to be a celestial nymph.
Said the girl in the dream:
"You have saved me by copying the Sutra of the Lotus
and offering several of them to Buddha. I was re-born
through your efforts in Paradise delivered from sin. I am
eternally grateful to you!"
So saying, she ascended to Heaven to sweet celestial
music. She was accompanied by two maids of honor, and
he saw the Great Buddha sitting calmly with his saints in
front of the Castle of Heaven, and several scrolls of the
Sutra of the Lotus were seen flying in the air like so
many birds as if welcoming the girl!
It was a dream. However the young samurai still
continued to copy the Sutra of the Lotus for the repose of
the soul of the young fox who died for him.
The Story of a Fox
Coming Disguised As a Wife
ONCE the wife of a zoshiki* went out at dusk on
urgent business. She did not, however, come home for
quite a long while. Her husband, naturally, felt it
After a while, however, the wife returned home to
the relief of the husband. Then, to his surprise, another
woman entered the house. She was a woman exactly
like his wife: The same face the same figure the
same voice the same manner in the same dress!
The zoshiki samurai was puzzled, to say the least of it.
One of them must be a fox, or something in the guise of
my wife, he thought. How to tell one from another? This
was a very difficult thing for me to decide.
*A petty officer, low in rank, not allowed to wear the robes of regular color. He wore
a parti-colored dress. Zoshiki literally means parti-colored. Hence the name.
In desperation, the zoshiki finally pulled his sword
from its sheath in an attempt to kill the woman coming
home after the first one.
Said the woman, crying:
"Are you going to kill me? Have you lost your mind?"
Then the man, again in desperation, and reckless
rushed toward the woman returning first, with the sword
raised overhead. The woman screamed and implored
him to spare her, clasping her hands. At this juncture,
however, her behavior raised suspicion in the mind of
the zoshiki. Therefore he seized her by the arm as he
wanted to take her captive.
This woman, however, turned herself instantly into
the shape of a fox, made water on the man, and ran
away through the open door barking, and disappeared
into the gathering twilight.
The zoshiki samurai was angry with the fox for
making a fool of him. But it was now too late. He
should have set his mind to work a little earlier. It was
his fault. In the first place, he should have caught both
women and bound them with ropes. If he had done so,
the fox would have revealed its natural shape sooner or
However the fox was lucky in effecting its escape.
The animal had evidently seen the wife of the zoshiki
and wanted to disguise itself as the wife for fun. In such
a case, one should be cautious not to be deceived by
such a crafty and mischievous beast as a fox. The
zoshiki was also lucky not to have killed his own wife.
The Story of a Fox Repaying Kindness
For Returning Its Treasured Ball
ONCE there was a woman believed to have been
possessed by a fox.
Said this woman to those present one day:
"I am a fox, but I am here not to bring evil upon
people. I just came as I thought I could find some
food here and there."
Presently she produced a whitish ball about the size
of a mandarin orange, and she played with it by throwing
it up in the air and catching it as it fell with her hands.
The people who saw it thought that she had the
intention of cheating them by some trick.
A young samurai who happened to see it took the
ball when it was thrown and pocketed it.
Said the woman possessed by a fox:
"How mean you are! Return the ball immediately!
Give it back to me!"
The young fellow, however, laughing, would not return
it to her.
The woman said again, with falling tears:
"It would be useless for you if you do not know how
to use it. However it is a thing indispensable to me. If
you do not give it back to me, therefore, I will cast an
evil spell on you. If, on the other hand, you will be
good enough to return it to me, I will protect you as
your guardian angel."
"Is that true?" said the samurai doubtfully.
"Without fail," answered the woman. "In such things, I
never tell a lie. And, mind you, I am not an ungrateful
fox, either."
The young man produced the whitish ball of the size
of a mandarin orange and gave it back to the woman,
who received it gladly.
The woman believed to have been possessed by a fox
came to herself a little later, thanks to the prayers offered
by an ascetic who visited the house. Then they searched
the woman for the whitish ball. Strange to say, however,
it was missing! It must have been taken away by the fox
who possessed the woman, they said.
Later the young samurai who returned the whitish ball
to the woman possessed by a fox went to Uzumasa, the
suburbs of Kyoto, the capital, one evening.
He went by way of Omuro. So it was quite dark by the
time when he was passing the Oten gate. He did not
know the reason why, but, at that time, he felt a chill
creep over him. He was sure something was to happen
and that he was in danger. He was wondering whether he
could find some way of escape. Now he recalled what
had been told by the woman possessed by a fox.
"She might protect me in such a case," he thought.
Therefore he cried aloud in the dark:
The fox did come. It came out from somewhere,
barking softly in response to the call.
Said the samurai to the fox:
"You did not tell me a lie. I am very glad that you
came, glad, indeed, to see that you are a reliable animal. I
felt a chill creeping over me while I was passing here.
I thought something is wrong. I hope you will go along
with me for some distance."
The fox seemed to understand what was said to it. It
walked ahead of the samurai, turning back anxiously
now and then. The road along which he was now being
led by the fox, he found, was overgrown with low striped
bambooes, a path he was not accustomed to walk before.
He was tracing the path, following the fox proceeding at
a trot.
Occasionally the fox stopped and looked around and
continued to walk stealthily with bent back. The man
walked, following the example of the animal.
Soon the young samurai was conscious of the fact that
there were signs of some people lurking somewhere.
They were armed with bow and arrow and swords and
halberds, and were a band of robbers. They were, as he
thought, planning to break into somebody's house.
He could now understand well that the fox walking
ahead of him had successfully passed the spot without
being perceived by those rough men.
The fox left the samurai, barking softly again at the
end of the path.
He came home safely. After that, it is said, the fox
would act as his guardian angel, as it had promised, on
several occasions. He found that Kitsuné was an animal
very grateful, repaying the kindness of man.
The Story of a Fox who Got Killed
Assuming the Form of a Cedar Tree
NAKADAYU, nephew to the chief Shinto priest of the
Kasuga shrine at Nara, was once roaming about with
his servant towards evening in a lonely mountain when
they espied a gigantic cedar tree standing ahead of
them, about 200 feet high.
Said Nakadayu to his servant:
"I never saw such a big cedar tree standing near
here in this mountain before. Can you see the tree
"Yes, master," answered the servant, "I can see a
big cedar tree over there."
"I don't think we have such a gigantic cedar tree
even in other parts of this province," said Nakadayu.
"We have cedar trees in this province. However I
have never seen such a big one before," agreed the
"In that case," observed Nakadayu, "we might have
been bewitched by a fox. We had better go home now."
They had been walking about the mountain to cut
plenty of grass for the horse kept at Nakadayu's house.
They were unaware of the passing of time. In the
gathering dusk, they saw the moon rise and cast a
weird light on the gigantic cedar tree. A nocturnal
bird screeched somewhere. A bush hard by rustled in
the stillness of the mountain as if a bandit lurking
behind it were coming out.
Master and servant exchanged glances, and each of
them fixed an arrow to the string of the bow they were
carrying for self-defence. A squirrel appeared and quickly
vanished across the path.
"Before we go home," said the servant, "let us shoot the
cedar tree and come here again tomorrow morning to see
They notched an arrow upon their bows.
"We had better shoot the cedar tree from a shorter
distance," advised the servant.
They proceeded a little farther drew their bows to
their fu l l extent and both shot at the giant tree at the
same time.
"Whiz!" went the arrows and the next moment they
saw the huge tree disappear!
They were afraid that it might be the act of some
uncanny hand, so they left the spot without delay.
The following morning they found an old fox shot dead
with two arrows stuck in its body at the very spot where
the gigantic cedar tree had been observed standing by
Nakadayu and his servant.
The prank of the fox cost it its life.

MONOGATARI (Continued)

The Story of a Fox Fond of Riding
On a Horse's Buttocks
A YOUNG pretty girl would stand on the bank of the
Kaya river to the east of the Ninnaji temple, Kyoto, of
an evening. When she saw a man passing there on
horseback in the direction of the capital, she would ask
him to give her a ride.
The girl would invariably say:
"I want to go to the capital riding on your horse's
The rider would answer:
"All right. You may ride on my horse's buttocks."
However when he went on for about 500 yards with
the girl riding on the horse's back, she would slip down
from on the horse and run away in the shape of a fox,
barking with delight.
The mischief mentioned above was repeated several
times, and the victims were always men passing on
horseback along the bank of the Kaya river to the east of
the Ninnaji temple.
Now at the Station of the Takiguchi (the Headquarters
of the Guards belonging to the Imperial palace),
somebody spoke about the girl riding on the horse's
buttocks, on the bank of the Kaya river. On hearing this,
a young takiguchi officer (we will call him the takiguchi
in this narrative) said:
"Well, I will catch her and teach her a lesson."
Other takiguchi officers present said with one voice:
"Certainly we will catch her!"
Said the takiguchi who spoke first:
"I will capture her tomorrow evening."
Said somebody:
"Can you?"
"Certainly I can!" was the answer.
The takiguchi, on the following evening, went by
himself to the bank of the Kaya river, riding a very
intelligent horse. The girl in question, however, was not
to be seen there. Disappointed, the takiguchi was riding
back in the direction of the capital when he saw a girl
standing by the roadside. On seeing the takiguchi coming
riding, she said cheerfully:
"Hey, give me a ride on your horse's buttocks, won't
"Surely. Climb on quickly. Where are you going?" said
the takiguchi.
Answered the girl:
"To the capital. It is getting dark, so I want to go there,
riding on your horse's buttocks."
As soon as the girl got on the horse's buttocks, the
officer tied her by the wrist to the saddle with a rope
used for hitching a horse.
Said the girl:
"Why do you do such a brutal thing to me?"
Replied the takiguchi:
"To prevent you from getting away from me, of
course. I am now taking you to my quarters to sleep
with you tonight, my girl."
They continued riding. It was now quite dark. After
passing Ichijyo, they proceeded along the road toward
the east. When passing Nishi-no-Omiya, the takiguchi
saw a procession approaching toward him from the east
preceded by a forerunner on horseback, holding a pinetorch
to light the road. By torch-light, the takiguchi
could see some carriages drawn by oxen moving in
stately fashion to the musical creak of their heavy
wheels with two men walking before each carriage,
holding pine-torches in their hands. Their figures were
seen in relief against the darkness of night.
The takiguchi thought it was the procession of some
personages of high rank. Therefore he turned back out
of respect, and went on, riding along the road of Nishino-
Omiya toward the east from Higashi-no-Omiya to
At the gate of the Tsuchimikado palace, the Takiguchi
called out to his followers whom he had previously
ordered to wait for him there.
Said about 10 men under the takiguchi, coming out:
"At your service, sir."
Then the takiguchi pulled the girl down from the
horse after unfastening the rope; and he ordered his men
to make a fire on the ground. And then he went to the
Takiguchi Station.
Aroused by the clamor, all his fellow takiguchi officers
emerged from the station.
Said the captor of the girl:
"I have caught her."
The girl began to cry and entreated to be released.
The fire was now burning brightly on the ground.
Said all takiguchi officers with one consent:
"Release her! into the fire with her!"
The takiguchi who had caught the girl said that she
might escape if this were done. However they said that
it would be fun to throw into the fire and shoot her
with bows and arrows in a volley.
About 10 takiguchi officers notched their arrows upon
their bows. The takiguchi who had been holding the
girl coming from the bank of the Kaya river threw her
right into the fire!
The girl, however, turned herself, in a twinkling,
into the shape of a fox and, before they could send a
volley of arrows, effected her escape, putting out the
In the dark, the takiguchi called to his men.
No response. Not a single man was there. And, to his
surprise, he found himself on a lonely plain!
He could see that he was now in the midst of the
cremation ground at Toribé-no, located in the suburbs
of the capital. (The only crematory in the Heian Era,
Toribé-no was a word used as synonym of death in
those days.) He thought that he had dismounted from
his horse at the gate of the Tsuchimikado palace. He
was mistaken. He recalled that he had turned back to
go to Tsuchimikado. He was mistaken. He had come to
this desolate and death-like crematory, instead. He
imagined that he had seen many pine-torches burning
in the dark after passing Ichijyo. He remembered
seeing all these things clearly, including the two torchcarriers
walking on each side of a carriage drawn by an
ox. He was deplorably mistaken. Now he knew that the
torches were nothing but the fire produced by foxes by
stroking their tails.
Brave as he was, the takiguchi had no alternative but to
go on foot. He had no horse to ride on. He returned home
dog-tired and chagrined about midnight.
His fellow takiguchi officers at the station at Tsuchimikado,
on the other hand, wondering what had become
of the takiguchi since he left on his adventure, sent a
messenger to the takiguchi's quarters to look for him two
days later.
The takiguchi, in the evening of the third day,
presented himself at the station, feeling like a sick man.
Asked his friends:
"Did you go to catch the fox-girl the other evening?"
Replied the takiguchi with some asperity:
"No, I did not. I was ill, very ill."
Asked his fellow officers again:
"What are you going to do now?"
"I will go and catch her this evening," was the rejoinder.
Said another takiguchi, laughing:
"Catch two of them this evening, I hope."
The takiguchi left the station without saying a word.
This time he said to himself:
"The fox may not come this evening as it was outwitted
by me the other night. If it appears this evening, I
will never loosen my hold on it. Never! I will hold it all
through the night. If it does not appear this
evening, I will not present myself at the station, but keep
to my quarters for some time."
He set out on horseback followed by several strong
men for the Kaya river. He soliloquised once more:
"Going to make myself a fool again, eh? I cannot help
it, though, since I said I would catch her."
The fox-girl was not in sight when the takiguchi
crossed the Kaya river by a bridge. However when he
was coming back disheartened, he saw a girl standing at
the edge of the river. He found that she had a different
The girl accosted him, and said:
"Hey, give me a ride on your horse's buttocks, won't
you?" I want to go to the capital."
The takiguchi obliged her. However, the moment she
was on horseback he lost no time in tying her up with a
rope as before.
It was getting darker and darker as the takiguchi was
riding along the Ichijyo road in the direction of the
capital, accompanied by his men. He ordered his
followers to kindle pine-torches and carry them ahead of
him and beside his horse. They went on, but they saw
nobody until they reached the Tsuchimikado palace.
The takiguchi got off his horse. He seized the fox-girl
firmly by her hair. She cried. But he would not have
mercy on her. He brought her to the Takiguchi Station.
He was deaf to her entreaties; and she seemed quite to
realize the situation this time.
The fellow officers came to see the captive.
"So you have caught her at last, eh?" they said.
The fox-girl was tortured and tortured until she
could stand it no longer and she turned herself into the
form of a fox.
They scorched the animal with pine-torches.
"O spare me!" the fox yelped plaintively.
The takiguchi said:
"We have given it a lesson. Set it free!"
They released the fox. It scampered off, limping.
About 10 days later, the takiguchi went to the Kaya
river. He wanted to see the fox-girl again out of curiosity.
She was there. She looked ill and beaten.
Said the takiguchi to the fox-girl:
"Don't you want to ride on my horse's buttocks?"
Responded the fox in the guise of a pretty girl weakly:
"I should like to ride on your horse's buttocks; but I
don't like to have my precious fur scorched. No thank
With that, she vanished.
This is a very strange thing. Nevertheless it did
happen and not long ago, so this writer (Takakuni, the
author of The Konjaku Monogatari) was told by the
narrator of this tale.
The Story of the Man Infatuated with a Fox
Saved by the Goddess of Mercy
HE was feeling very lonesome, a man of fifty, with his
wife gone to the capital, Kyoto, on business. It was an
evening in the autumn of 895. Yoshifuji, of Kayo County
in Bittchu Province, was seen rambling alone
along the country road. A rich man engaging in exchange
business; he was wanton by nature and in the
habit of taking to amours.
Presently he met an attractive woman. She was an
utter stranger in the community. Yoshifuji, however,
found it impossible to control himself. She smiled a
charming smile as she approached him. She had a set of
pearly teeth.
"A nice evening," he accosted her. With women his
talk was usually gentle and soothing. "Where are you
going? And who are you? I have never seen you before."
''I am nobody," the woman said laughingly.
Yoshifuji was now completely swayed by passion.
"Come with me," he said.
"No. I am going home," replied the woman, "you
come with me."
"Where you live?" asked the money man.
"I live over there. Not far from here. Come with me,"
she invited him again.
They walked together. Yoshifuji soon saw a splendid
house standing at a short distance.
"That is our house," told the woman.
He had never seen such a fine house before, in this
neighborhood, a fact that puzzled him considerably.
However he was now so fascinated with the woman that
he did not pay much attention to that.
When he arrived at the house, he was welcomed by
everybody as if each member of the household had
known him well.
"You are welcome here!" they said heartily.
Yoshifuji spent the night there, with the woman.
The following morning, another woman who seemed
to be the mistress of the household came and said:
"I am so glad you came. There is a Providence in it. I
sincerely hope that you will stay here as long as you
On seeing the woman, Yoshifuji instantly became
infatuated with her. He decided to stay in the house as
long as possible. Capricious by nature, Yoshifuji was
inconsistent in love.
Thus he stayed in the house for a long period of time.
In the household of Yoshifuji, on the other hand, they
were wondering what was the matter with him. He did
not come back in the evening. He was away from home
at night. Was he philandering somewhere,
as usual? Midnight still found him not at home. Gone for
a long trip? No. It could not be so. He had left his house
in his white robe (abbreviated clothes worn in those
days, a wadded garment with skirt).
The day broke in alarm.
They combed the village for Yoshifuji. The whereabouts
of the man were still unknown. Had he joined the
priesthood, having grown weary of the world? or
drowned himself, realizing the uncertainty of life?
Strange, this thing, they thought.
Now to return to the luxurious house where Yoshifuji,
the wanton man, was leading a licentious life with the
fascinating mistress. The woman with whom he was
intimately related had given birth to a child, and they, the
man and the woman, were bound up with each other, and
their love was growing with the years.
Yoshifuji had two brothers: Toyonaka, his elder
brother; and Toyotsune, his younger brother. The former
was the chief of a sub-prefecture; and the latter, the priest
of a big temple. Both of these people were also rich.
They wanted to find the body of Yoshifuji at all costs
through the favor of Kanzéon, the Goddess of Mercy. So
they made her image out of a huge oak tree and prayed
night and day kneeling down before it.
They implored the goddess for the repose of the soul of
the departed man. However their efforts seemed not to
bear fruit. Still they continued to pray awake or asleep
with untiring zeal.
Now it so happened, one day, that a person carry-
ing the long staff of a priest came to the house where
Yoshifuji was staying.
"Here he comes!"
The members of the family cried in consternation on
seeing this person. Then they flew in all directions.
The caller made Yoshifuji come out of a narrow place
by prodding him on the back with the staff.
On the evening of the thirteenth day since Yoshifuji
dropped out of sight, his people were talking together
about him, sitting in a room when they saw a strange
black creature looking like a monkey come creeping, on
all fours, with his hips raised high, from under the floor
of a warehouse standing facing the house.
Said the strange creature:
"I am here, folks."
He was no less a person than Yoshifuji!
Tadasada, his son, felt it strange. However it was the
voice of his father that he heard. Therefore he got down
on the ground and pulled him up.
Said Yoshifuji:
"I was staying alone at home feeling lonesome. I went
out, and strolling along the road met a woman, who led
me to her house, where I was obliged to become the
father of a child. He was a boy and he was so cute and
lovely that I used to hold him every day in my arms
fondling him. I named him Taro (meaning first son).
Therefore I will call you hereafter Jiro (second son),
as I respect his mother."
Asked Tadasada:
"Where is the child, father?"
"Down there!" replied Yoshifuji, pointing to the
Tadasada and others, on hearing the words of Yoshifuji,
were greatly surprised. They looked at Yoshifuji
again. He looked haggard and sick. He was wearing the
white robe he worn when leaving the house, a dirty robe
now, and it smelt bad.
A servant was sent to look under the floor of the
warehouse. At the approach of the servant, several foxes
were seen running away helter-skelter. The servant
found where his master used to sleep under the
cobwebby floor.
Now they learned for the first time that Yoshifuji had
been bewitched by foxes and that he had forgotten to
return to his own house, after becoming the husband of a
female fox-beauty.
They called in a high priest to pray for his speedy
recovery from the fox's witchcraft and a man exorcising
evil spirits to purify him. They washed him several
times, too. Still he did not look as he used to be.
Gradually, however, he came to his senses. He believed
that he had lived with the fascinating fox-woman
in the luxurious house for a period of thirteen years; but,
in reality, he had spent only thirteen days with her under
the floor of the warehouse. Now it was revealed that he
had been saved by the favors of Kanzéon, the Goddess
of Mercy, appearing in the form of a priest carrying a
long staff.
This story, by the way, was told by Miyoshi-no-
Kiyotsura, the feudal lord of Bittchu Province in those
The Story of an Imperial Household Guard
Officer Disillusioned by an Act of a Fox
A TONÉRI (whose duty was to guard the Imperial<br

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