Loving fox

My friend who took Japanese Literature last semester contributed this story, since one of the chapters was all about Japanese folktales. She personally thinks this story is quite weird but since I specifically asked for fox stories (for comparison purpose), this is what she remembered.  


A man was walking at night along the street in Tokyo when he encountered an extraordinary beautiful woman. He took the chance and started a conversation with her, only later the conversation developed to luring her into a one night stand. The woman, however, tried to hold him off, saying that even she’d love to do this, having sex with her would result in his death. The man, however, was too excited to thought through and kept pressing himself on her that she finally gave in. She said since she could not refuse the man, she would die in his place, but only begged him to copy Lotus Sutra for her as a gesture of gratitude. The man was not taking her seriously, and eventually got what he wanted. At dawn the woman got up and asked the man for his fan before leaving. She told him that she’s gonna die for him, and if he did not believe her, just go to this place [some place in Tokyo that the informant could not recall] and he’ll see.

During the day, the man went to that place and found a dead fox lying there with his fan over its body. He was extremely sorry and copied Lotus Sutra for her. Days after, he dreamed of the fox in the woman’s form, telling him that thanks to him, she is now born in the Heaven.


Upon some research, I learned that fox has always been an important figure in East Asian folklores, especially in China and Japan. These tales of fox represent the culture of animal worship, or more specifically, fox worship. Since fox loves to reside near or in human’s household, while being sly and seems to appear and disappear mysteriously, human tends to interpret fox as an animal with supernatural power. In China, fox, along with weasel, snake, hedgehog, and mouse, are known as five gods. All of these five animals can be easily found near human households, can do harm to people’s properties such as livestock and stored goods, but at the same time are hard to catch. Over time, people began to worship them, in hope of if showing enough respect, they would not do any damage and in turn bring prosperity. Another theory of fox worship is that fox would hunt field mice that damage the crops, and thus helps farmers. In fact, in Japan, fox is believed to be the massager of Inari Ōkami, a god of fertility and rice. However, as foreign religions such as Buddhism become more and more popular in East Asia, these regional religions of animal worship are oppressed. Fox is then given the characteristic of evil, while before that fox is only a magical animal that would bring prosper and good luck.

In this particular tale, fox is represented as a kind and loving animal, but there are other entries of fox tales I got from both this friend and others served for comparisons.

In addition, it is fairly common in East Asian fox tales that foxes transformed into beautiful women and seduce / fall in love with human men.