the online database of Japanese folklore

Yao no kitsune


Translation: eight-tailed fox

Appearance: Yao no kitsune are powerful kitsune with eight tails.

Origin: An encounter with a yao no kitsune was recorded by Kasuga no Tsubone in Tōshō daigongen notto, a document of praise and thanks to the deified founder of the Edo shogunate Tokugawa Ieyasu.

Legends: In 1637, Tokugawa Iemitsu came down with a terrible illness. As he lay on his deathbed, he experienced a revelation. He dreamed an eight-tailed kitsune appeared to him, sent from Nikkō Toshōgu. The kitsune told Iemitsu that he would recover from his sickness, and then it vanished.

When Iemitsu awoke his fever was gone. He quickly recovered, just as the kitsune predicted.

The eight-tailed kitsune from Nikkō Toshōgu and Iemitsu’s extraordinary recovery served as evidence of the divinity of Iemitsu’s grandfather. Iemitsu had a scroll commemorating the yao no kitsune commissioned from the shogunate’s official painter Kanō Tan’yū.

Alphabetical list of yōkai