Thursday, May 13, 2010

狐 Kitsune きつね

Kitsune, or foxes, are a common subject in Japanese folklore where they are often depicted as intelligent beings and as possessing magical abilities - the foremost among these is to assume human form. Kitsune in these folklore adopt the roles of trickster, guardian, friend, lover and wive. Kitsune are also closely associated with Inari, a principal kami or spirit and the Shinto deity of rice. Originally kitsune were Inari's messengers, but the line between the two is now blurred so that Inari himself may be depicted as a fox. In addition, beliefs derived from fusui (feng shui) empower the fox with power over evil, is such that a mere statue of a fox can dispel the evil kimon (energy) that flows from the northeast. Entire shrines are dedicated to kitsune, and most if not all Shinto shrines have kitsune adorned with red votive bibs. Fox spirits are said to be particularly fond of a fried sliced tofu called aburage, which is accordingly found in the noodle-based dishes kitsune udon and kitsune soba. Similarly, Inari-zushi is a type of sushi named for Inari that consists of rice-filled pouches of fried tofu.

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