Japanese Language Blog

The Nine Tailed Fox Posted by on Aug 25, 2010 in Culture

The kyūbi no kitsune (九尾) is a legendary nine tailed fox prevalent in Japanese folktales and plays. Stories about the nine tailed fox go way back in Japan’s oral telling history. Interestingly, it’s still used in modern times. If you’ve watched the anime Naruto (ナルトー), the kyūbi no yōko (九尾妖狐) or nine tailed demon fox plays an important role in the story. However, in the anime, the nine tailed fox doesn’t take on the typical role that it has in traditional Japanese stories of the nine tailed fox.

In Japanese folklore, the nine tailed fox takes on the appearance of a beautiful woman. Tamamo no mae (), which in English means, “The Beautiful Fox Witch” is a story about the nine tailed fox’s disguise as a woman. The emperor happens to fall in love with the woman, but the more he falls in love, the sicker he becomes. There’s a term in Japanese called kitsunegao (キツネ顔), which means “fox-faced”. Generally speaking, the Japanese view women with “fox faced” features as attractive. These “fox faced” features refer to women who have a small, oval face and prominent cheekbones; which are supposedly features like those of a fox.

Perhaps that’s where the Tamamo no mae story originated from, but like Tamamo no mae, the transformation of the nine tailed fox as a woman is a metaphor for falling and the pain that occurs to the lover (usually in reference to men) when involved in such a love.

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  1. Amr Shibiny:

    go naruto!! 🙂