the online database of Japanese folklore

Okon gitsune


Translation: Okon the fox

Appearance:  Okon gitsune comes from Jitōgata in Makinohara, Shizuoka. She was a malicious troublemaker, and loved playing tricks on the humans who lived near her home. Her signature prank was to attack travelers on the road and shave them bald.

Legends: A fishmonger was carrying his daily catch through the hills when an elegant looking lady approached him and asked him to sell her some fish. She said she was having a party, and wanted every single fish he had. The fisherman was shocked. He had never traded all of his fish in a single day before. He happily sold his catch to the woman, and went home early.

His wife was surprised to hear his story. She thought it was strange, as there were no families with that kind of money living anywhere near those hills. On second thought, the fisherman agreed it was strange. He opened up his purse, but the coins the woman had paid with were gone. All that was inside was a handful of leaves. He realized that he must have been tricked by Okon gitsune.

The fisherman decided to find the kitsune and punish her. He grabbed a wooden staff and went back to the hills. The day grew late, but he could not find the kitsune anywhere. Suddenly, he heard a call from down the road. A daimyō’s procession was heading up the hill and straight his way! The soldiers at the front of the procession were ordering him to make way.

The fisherman jumped off the road and prostrated himself before the procession. He bowed his head, and the ground rumbled as soldiers, horses, and the daimyo’s palanquin passed. Suddenly, it struck him as odd that daimyō would process through this rural stretch of hills. He though that this must be Okon gitsune playing a trick on him. Now was his chance to punish her! The fisherman jumped up and approached the daimyō’s palanquin. He tried to pull open the door.

“INSOLENT PEASANT!” came a voice from the palanquin.

The daimyō’s guards seized the fisherman and forced him to the ground. The daimyō stepped out of his palanquin. He drew his sword from its sheath and raised it to cut off the fisherman’s head. The fisherman groveled and begged the daimyō to spare his life.

The daimyō’s rage subsided. “Very well. You may live, but you must shave your head to show repentance.”

Guards held the fisherman down and cut all the hair from his head. The fisherman grovelled on the side of the road until the procession left. He had his life, but everyone in the village would tease him for this. He wrapped his head in a kerchief and sheepishly returned home.

His wife was shocked to see him return shaven and ashamed. Even more so when she heard his story. There was no way a daimyō would travel through such rural, backwater hills. The whole procession was clearly a trick. Her husband bad been fooled by Okon gitsune again.

“But,” she point out, “whether it was a kitsune or not, if you had just bowed your head and let the procession pass, you would still have your hair…”

Alphabetical list of yōkai