Kitsune: a Japanese shifter

So, what’s a kitsune? It’s a fox shifter out of Japanese legends.

Foxy Tail

Like their werewolf cousins, the kitsune can assume human form and is actually pretty wise. Also differing from their wolfy cousins, the kitsune is born in fox form and grows up to assume their human side. They don’t always have to look like the same person, but usually like the form of young, beautiful women.

Unlike their animal counterparts, they have multiple tails. It is said that the more tails a kitsune has, up to nine, the more wise she is. She often has trouble hiding her tail in human form, so that’s a way to tell if the pretty girl you met late at night on a deserted road is inhuman (if the local wasn’t enough to tip you off).

In other myths, the fox actually possesses a young girl by entering under her finger nails and takes over her body. Usually, those are the bad kind and they’re commonly called Kitsunetsuki.

Tricky Fox

Kitsunes are often presented as tricksters, whether just for fun or for evil. Like will o’ the wisps, they like to lead travelers of the path. Usually, their victims are men. They can cause all kinds of trouble.

Sometimes, they attach themselves to a house and use their magic to cause mischief or do be helpful, depending on the occupants. Since they’re long lived, you can actually inherit the fox with the house. They always keep their promises and repay favors, although sometimes you wish they didn’t.

In some stories, the fox in human lady form will marry a young human male who doesn’t know about her other side. It’s romantic and she is a dutiful wife, sometimes even bearing his children. But eventually, he finds out about her foxy side and leaves her, returning home in shame. This is a very typical shapeshifter story, I think.


The Kitsune is definitely a Japanese myth, but the origins may actually have roots in India, China, or Korea, or a mix of the above. Legends of the sexy fox shifter dates back to the 4th Century, but we can’t really trace more than that. Wherever the idea came from, the legend has definite Japanese influence in the idea of a spirit guide. They’ve also come to feature prominently in Japanese anime.

Your Foxy Lady

So, I think this could be a super fun story idea! The werewolf is pretty popular, but the kitsune is a rarer jewel for your story treasure chest. Would your kitsune be a beautiful seductress or a wise, nine-tailed fox?



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