Our story today deals with a yōkai who you are probably already familiar with: a kitsune. Although the word kitsune literally just means fox, I prefer to use the Japanese word untranslated when I’m talking about yōkai foxes to differentiate them from normal, non-magical animals. Kitsune are a tremendously famous and popular yōkai, and I just happen to have published a brand new book with a heavy focus on kitsune this year! It’s called The Fox’s Wedding, and it’s available now. So rather than write a lot about kitsune here, I’ll take the opportunity to do a quick plug and recommend you check out my new book!
The Kitsune Who Took Revenge on a Yamabushi
A yamabushi set out from Mount Ōmine for training when he came upon a fox taking an afternoon nap in the road. He crept up to the fox and blew his conch shell horn loudly right next to its ear. The fox was startled out of its wits and scrambled away.
Finding this amusing, the yamabushi continued on his way. Although it was still mid-day, the sky suddenly turned to dusk. Since he was in the middle of the wilderness, there was no lodging for him to take shelter. As he wondered what to do, he saw a graveyard nearby. Although he was afraid, he had no choice but to climb up into the ceiling of the crematorium to spend the night.
It was already as dark as midnight. From a distance several fires were visible, and they started coming closer. It was a funeral procession approaching the graveyard. There were two or three hundred people in the procession. The sight was beautiful. An elder recited a prayer for the dead, then rang a bell, a gong, and a bowl, conducting the ceremony with great solemnity. Finally, he set fire to the body, and then left.
As the fire burned and the body was reduced to ash, suddenly a trembling corpse climbed out of the fire. It stood up, then started walking. The yamabushi saw this and was overcome with fright. As he was wondering what to do, the corpse looked up towards the ceiling of the crematorium. It stared at the yamabushi. Then it climbed up towards him. As the yamabushi shrunk back even further, the corpse spoke.
“What are you doing here?”
And then the corpse pushed the yamabushi down from the ceiling. The yamabushi fainted.
When he finally came to his senses, the yamabushi opened his eyes. It was mid-afternoon, and he was lying alone in the middle of an open field. However, he had thrown out his lower back, and he was forced to walk home in great pain.
It was said that the fox, frightened by the conch, had gotten his revenge.