Kitsune - Meaning of Japanese Kitsune Mask

Kitsune Statue

Some of the Japanese traditional masks are Kitsune, Noh, Kyōgen, Shinto and Kagura masks. Noh is classical Japanese musical drama based on tales from traditional literature performed since the 14th century. Kyōgen is a form of traditional Japanese comic performance in the theater. It was performed as an intermission between Noh acts. Shinto is an ethnic religion in Japan, and it focuses on ritual practices. Kagura is a type of Shinto theatrical dance.

Kitsune mask is a mask of a fox. It has meaning in religion and folk tradition. In Japanese culture, Fox has contradictory behavior. It can be benevolent (good) or malevolent (evil) depending on the situation.

There are different kind of fox masks like:

  • Hahakistue – mother fox
  • Gin-Tenko – silver fox
  • Kinko – gold fox
  • Hakuko – white fox
  • Tenko – Sky Fox
  • Water Fox
  • Ryuko – dragon fox
  • Samurai Fox
  • Jiko – grand fox

In Shinto religion, Fox is a messenger of the god Inari, who is the protector of rice, agriculture, and fertility. The gods themselves can appear in fox shape. Fox brings rich harvest, and it is a symbol of wealth. Statues of foxes are the part of shrines dedicated to Inari and people offer them rice to calm down the foxes. The festivals dedicated to rice harvest season is held in late summer or early fall.

In some stories, it is believed that offering gifts to fox spirit could turn him into your servant. Kitsune Fox is good in stealing wealth so in earlier years families who owned Fox could find themselves accused of stealing. In that time, Fox owning were considered practicing witchcraft. Nouveau riche people were accused of making a deal with fox spirit.

Kitsune masks are used in festivals. One of the festivals dedicated to Fox is Oji’s Fox Parade. The tail says that on New Year’s Eve all the foxes disguised as humans visit the Oji shrine dedicated to Inari.

In folklore stories, foxes shapeshift to trick humans. They can take a form of a priest to trick villagers or a form of a beautiful woman to seduce a man.

Natures contradictory conditions like rain in sunny weather are described as a tricky nature of Fox.

In ancient times kitsune (fox) and tanuki (the Japanese raccoon dog) made a single group called Kori. When they separated and become rivals, they got into battles, manifesting their powers, magical shapeshifting ability.

Kitsune mask become a part of the Japanese pop culture in artistic forms like anime and manga.