the online database of Japanese folkore



Translation: spirit fox
Alternate names: senko (wizard fox)
Habitat: usually found near Inari shrines
Diet: none; they no longer need food

Appearance: Kiko are zenko—good kitsune—who serve the kami Inari. It is the third rank of fox spirit, below tenko and kūko. In general, kiko are between five hundred and one thousand years of age. They can have as many as nine tails, depending on their age. Most kiko are white-furred foxes (byakko), black (kokuko), gold (kinko), and silver-furred (ginko) kiko also exist. They are spiritual beings without true physical bodies, and can take many different forms. Occasionally they appear in human form (usually beautiful women).

Behavior: When a kitsune gains the rank of kiko, it sheds its body and begins to live a spiritual existence. Their duty is to act as servants and messengers of Inari Ōkami, one of Shinto’s major gods. The vast majority of kitsune in Inari’s service are kiko. While they are not particularly high-ranking, they do rank above the foolish wild kitsune (also known as nogitsune or yako). Their magical skills are much greater than those of nogitsune as well. They are not as likely to act maliciously towards humans than lower ranking kitsune, but neither are they as pure as the higher ranking kūko and tenko.

Interactions: While nogitsune are known for taking human form in order to drain the life force of humans, kiko often take human form to help people. Some of them even fall in love with humans and live with them in disguise for many years (although these relationships often end in heartbreak once the kitsune’s true nature is discovered). One of the most well known examples of such a kitsune is Kuzunoha, the mother of Abe no Seimei.

Alphabetical list of yōkai