Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Fox's image in Japan

I cleared the snow off the street this morning.

Fox's image in Japan is different from that in the West. Foxes were portrayed as uncanny or sympathetic beings in literature, entertainment and folklore of Japan.

kitsune-no-yomeiri(狐の嫁入り:wedding procession of foxes)
 kitsunebi(狐火:foxfire or will-o'-the-wisps)

A lot of foxfire formed a line in night mountains or riverbank. Because it looked like an lantern-light parade, ancient people regarded it as the wedding procession of foxes. It's also appeared in the Akira Kurosawa's Dreams.

kyubi-no-kitsune(九尾の狐:nine-tailed fox)
Legend has it that a thousand-year-old fox turns to a nine-tailed fox spirit in China. It's called kumiho in Korea.

Tamamonomae-Asahinotamoto(玉藻前曦袂)

A bunraku play written by Chikamatsu Baishiken and Sagawa Touta, premiered in 1806. It's based on the legend that a nine-tailed fox spirit changed itself into a rare beauty, enslaved emperors or princes and drove countries to ruin in ancient China, India and Japan. The fox changes itself into a woman named Tamamonomae(玉藻前) in Japan.
Recently, only Act Ⅲ Scene Ⅱ (Michiharu-yakata-no-dan,道春館の段) of the play tends to be performed . Unfortunately, you can not see the fox in its scene.

Yokyoku(謡曲) "Sessyou-seki(殺生石:killing stone)"

Yokyoku is a script of a noh play. The story goes like this.
A nine-tailed fox spirit disguised as Tamamonomae was penetrated and became "killing stone", which kills approaching people or animals, after being shot to death. Later a priest drove away the evil spirit.
As an aside, a stone named Sessyou-seki(殺生石) lies in Nasu Town of Tochigi Prefecture.



Yoshitsune Senbon Zakura (義経千本桜:Yoshitsune and the Thousand Cherry Trees)
written by Takeda Izumo Ⅱ(二代目竹田出雲), Miyoshi Syouraku(三好松洛), Namiki Senryu(並木千柳), premiered as a bunraku play in 1747, as a kabuki play in 1748.

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