the online database of Japanese folklore

Fukuro mujina


Translation: bag badger
Habitat: human-inhabited areas

Appearance: Fukuro mujina look like mujina (badgers; however this word sometimes refers to tanuki as well) dressed in human clothes and make up resembling ancient noblewomen. A very large sack is slung over their shoulder.

Origin: Mujina are known to be tricksters, dressing up in various human costumes and masquerading as people. However, because this yōkai originally appears in a collection of tsukumogami, it is likely that fukuro mujina are actually haunted bags which take on the appearance of mujina, rather than mujina pretending to be humans.

Fukuro mujina was invented by Toriyama Sekien and appears in his Hyakki tsurezure bukuro, however it was based on illustrations from much older yōkai picture scrolls. Sekien inserts a pun into his description of the fukuro mujina, referring to an old proverb: “to price a badger in a hole.” The meaning of this idiom is that it is difficult to estimate the value of something you do not yet possess. It is similar to the English phrase “to count your chickens before they are hatched.”

Alphabetical list of yōkai