the online database of Japanese folkore

Mujina


むじな

Translation: badger
Alternate names: anaguma; known as tanuki or mami in some regions
Habitat: forests and mountains
Diet: carnivorous; feeds on small wild animals

Appearance: Mujina are badgers who have developed magical powers and become yōkai. While mujina was once a common word for badger, these days anaguma refers to ordinary badgers while the term mujina is reserved exclusively for their yōkai form. Mujina are frequently confused with tanuki because of their similar size, appearance, and magical prowess. To further complicate matters, in some regions tanuki are called mujina, while mujina are called tanuki. In other regions the term mami applies to both animals.

Behavior: Mujina are less famous as yōkai than other shape-changing animals. As they live in the mountains, generally far from human society, they are not encountered as frequently as other animal yōkai. They are shy, and do not like to be seen by or interact with humans. Unlike other, more careless magical animals, the few mujina who live amongst human society take great care not to betray their true nature in any way.

Interactions: When it is dark and quiet, and there are no humans around, it is said that mujina shift into a humanoid form—usually that of a young boy wearing a tiny kimono—and sing songs in the street. If approached by a stranger, they run away into the darkness and transform back into animal form.

Other forms: The most well-known form mujina take is that of a nopperabō, a seemingly normal human form, but with no facial features whatsoever. They use this form to scare and panic humans who wander mountain or village roads at night time. Because of this, the two yōkai are often confused, and nopperabō are sometimes mistakenly referred to as mujina. However, other animal yōkai also imitate this same form, and there are non-animal nopperabō as well. Care should be taken to avoid misunderstanding.

Alphabetical list of yōkai