Kitsune Masks Meaning, History, Types (2023 Guide)

A kitsune mask refers to a mask featuring the physical characteristics of a fox. In Japanese culture, it bears a significant meaning in their Shinto religion and folk tradition. Kitsune masks have a rich history in Japan and its culture. There are various types of kitsune masks available that have their own significance and meaning.

Japanese Kitsune masks are a fascinating part of the culture. Hundreds of masks are used in traditional theatrics, dances, and festivals and represent different attributes and tell stories. The kabuki theater is the most famous theater in Japanese tradition. Masks are used during this theater as well.

These masks can be found all over Japan. They have become popular with tourists and collectors of Japanese art, who find them both beautiful and fascinating

There are many types of Japanese masks, but one of the most popular ones is called a kitsune mask. Kitsune masks are used in different kinds of dances, such as traditional Japanese Noh Theater.

In this article, we have tried our best to make an extensive and detailed guide on Kitsune Masks, where we talked about Kitsune Masks meaning and history, types, etc.

What is Kitsune Mask?

A mask depicting a mystical creature with fox-like features.  In Japan, kitsune (fox) is used to describe various types of yokai spiritual creatures that are used in Japanese folklore and animistic beliefs. Simply saying these masks are fox masks.

History of the Fox Spirit in Japan
What is Kitsune Mask

Japanese kitsune masks are believed to be used for the purpose of entertainment or to deceive humans. A Japanese kitsune mask is usually made up of paper, painted a very dark brown or black color. The kitsune mask has a triangular-shaped face and two vast eyes.

The large eyes make the kitsune mask appear very friendly and innocent. These fox masks are not only used in theatrical plays but are also used as charms worn around the necks of human beings. These charms are supposed to help protect their wearers from being possessed by a fox spirit, which is a form that the Kitsune sometimes takes on.

What Do Kitsune Masks Represent?

A kitsune mask refers to a mask featuring the physical characteristics of a fox. In Japanese culture, it bears a significant meaning in their Shinto religion and folk tradition. Mainly it symbolizes the representative of the fox spirits in Shinto ritual practices, festivals, and attitudes. In most senses, it is used as the messengers of the Shinto god. 

Gods are always a flexible concept for most Japanese. Since the fox is bearing a contradictory behavior for them, no matter if it is benevolent or malicious, the Japanese take them as the representations of their God.

Especially, foxes are regarded as the apostle of the God Inari, who is the protector of their basics like rice, agriculture, and fertility. Thus, they symbolize rich harvest, higher prosperity, wealth, and also cunningness, trickery, and smartness through the form of a Fox mask or Kitsune mask. 

Apart from this, Fox statues or a pair of Kitsune are offered to Inari shrines by worshippers. Visitors and passers-by who come to the temple leave their wishes as votive offerings to the foxes in the form of Fox fond food like rice, Inari sushi wrapped in fried tofu, and many more. 

The History of Kitsune Mask

The History of Kitsune Masks

Japanese culture and tradition are exciting and fascinating for people worldwide. They have a glorious history full of handmade crafts and masks. Japanese fox masks are one of them.

Kitsune masks have a long history in Japanese culture, and no matter if they’re used for parties, festivals, or other traditional activities, their modern kitsune masks always have their own unique style.

In Japan, the kitsune is known as “the fox with one tail,” and it is considered to be both good and evil. A fox with many tails is said to be more powerful than one with few or none at all. This explains why some masks are larger than others. The larger the mask, the more powerful its powers are thought to be.

This Japanese Kitsune mask can be worn by men or women, and it is believed that the wearer will gain the ability to transform into a fox while wearing it. By wearing this mask during a festival or other traditional activity, people are said to be able to receive power from Inari-sama himself.

History of the Fox Spirit in Japan

The fox is a common animal in Japanese folklore. It is usually portrayed as a messenger of the gods, a guardian spirit or protector, or a sorcerer using its powers for evil. The fox is a sweet and intelligent creature in Japanese folklore. In western culture, they are known as mischievous characters, but the Japanese fox is an animal of fairness and good fortune.

Kitsune are widely regarded as bringers of both luck and prosperity, as well as harbingers of great disasters. They are regarded as intelligent beings that are highly skilled in magic, shape-shifting, and illusion. The fox is believed to possess supernatural powers that can be used for both good and evil purposes, which is why they are often depicted as tricksters and spiritual guides who possess magical abilities.

Kitsune masks represent the mystical fox spirits in Japanese folklore. These masks are used as a form of traditional Japanese theater and also during various festivals and celebrations.

Tales about the kitsune can be seen in literature, art, theatre, film, and video games. Foxes also appear in Japanese folklore as powerful beings that are associated with Inari, the Shinto god of rice, fertility, and farmers.

What Are The 13 Types Of Kitsune?

Types of Kitsune Maska

Mainly Kitsune masks are categorized into two types, and one is the symbol for good and another sign for bad. But these two large categories are again divided into 13 subcategories, available in individual fox face expressions. 

Have a glimpse at all of these:

1. Kaze – Wind

Kaze Kitsune has an affinity to wind chakra, which it uses to fly little distances in shorter times. Basically, it possesses power on wind-based techniques and gets its speed to fly out. 

These Kitsunes are quite rare, though people ask them to bring good luck and happiness. Kaze kitsunes are found in color and wind marking on their fur, starting from white fur with blue markings to black fur with dark green markings. 

2. Chikyu – Earth

In Japanese, Chikyu means Earth. They take all the simplicity of the earth and don’t have any specialty to express their spiritual power. Yet, they are quite powerful and can control disasters like earthquakes or several events. So in myths, it is recommended to be highly respectful to them if anyone encounters them.  

3. Kasai – Fire

Kasai Kitsunes are often known for Fire foxes. This Kitsune has an affinity for controlling the fire. As for having this spiriting power, they are found to live in such areas where it is impossible to survive for other living.  

In most research, there have been too many similarities between the Kasai kitsune and the Honshu wolf, as both of the species have the ability to control fire. But the Kasai kitsune used to live in large folks, whereas the Honshu wolf lived in small ones.

4. Kawa – River

Kawa translates to River, which means these Kitsune are always on the move. Also, they prefer to live near watery environments like swamps, lakes, or rivers, where they build their homes under a hard rock. These characteristics of this kitsune reflect how much they love water and such environments.

These Kitsunes are very fond of food and drink and hardly have the etiquette to have food with manners. Apart from these minor flaws, they are quite good at creating companions with whom they stay for longer. 

5. Tengoku – Heaven

Tengoku mainly refers to “Heaven.” It is depicted as a white Kitsune with six tails.  The Tengoku Kitsune mainly used to live about 1,000 years ago. When the kitsune comes to this age, they start gaining spiritual empowerment and then ascend to the heavens. 

It is regarded as the first powerful Kitsune, which has wisdom and enlightenment.

6. Sanda – Thunder

In Japanese, Sanda means thunder. Sanda Kitsune is the messenger of the God who enlightens with the power of thunder. To the Japanese, Sanda kitsune has both benevolent and malicious sides. 

It is said that if Sanda appears in the storm, that is a sign of misfortune. In another sense, it refers to extremely good luck when a person sees them in front of them. Just then, people make wishes in the desire that they will surely fulfill. 

7. Yama – Mountain

In Japanese, Yama translates to “Mountain.” From the said stories, these kitsunes prey upon humans to achieve sadness and fear. They teach people valuable lessons on how better they will protect themselves from such beings. 

In most cases, they are said to be frightening. That’s the reason; Kitsunes are closely associated with several Gods like Inari, a Shinto kami, and many more. 

8. Kukan – Void

Kukan is the word that is used to mean “Void.” They are also known as Void Kitsune or Nogitsune. They’re one type of Yakos that are created by chaos, strife, pain, and other negative emotions. Though Kukan is evil, he helps humans when they encounter any danger. 

9. Seishin – Spirit

Seishin means Spirit in Japanese. They are merging by fox spirit with a human. For that reason, they are mostly like human beings, but they’ve grown in power.  

Seishin has to change between humans and foxes with magic. Also, they help humans by fulfilling their wishes. 

10. Jikan – Time

Jikan is a Kitsune who is related to time. This kitsune has a super dominion over time and thus handles a humanoid fox with a clock on his head. In Japan, black-furred cats are kitsuneneko who have dominion over time. 

Along with this, they have the ability to read minds, viewing the past and future as an extension of power.

11. Mori – Forest

Mori signifies Forest in the Japanese dictionary. They’re used to living in deeply wooded forests instead of urban areas. From stories, it is heard that Mori Kitsune has three tails. Even at times, five or nine tails can also have. 

Like other Kitsune, they are depicted to help humans by providing wisdom, guidance, and healing powers. Though all are not good to humans, some prove mischievous as well. So, this kitsune should not be taken lightly. But they can be much more valuable for humans if you’re treated properly.  

12. Umi – Ocean

In Japanese, Umi means Ocean. It is listed as the most powerful kitsune on this earth. Umi used to live up to 1000 years ago with superior magical power. Despite her magical power, she is kind enough and always ready to lend hands to help people.

As she is the sign of the Ocean, people also ask for help from this kitsune while in need, danger, illness, or injury. Also, this Kitsune serves as a talented artist as well. Through each of her dark paintings, she delivers a beautiful message to human beings. 

13. Ongaku – Music

Ongaku Kitsune means the fox, which has superior power in music. They are musicians with the power to transform their bodies into musical instruments like bells or drums. Thus in most senses, they are regarded as ‘drum kitsune.’

Kitsune Masks Styles and Colors

Kitsune Mask Color and Styles
Kitsune Masks Color and Styles

Kitsune masks are worn during the Japanese festival of Tanabata and during other joyful events. A kitsune mask is a very popular piece of Japanese art. It is believed that the fox spirit can protect from bad luck and bring happiness to its wearer.

The most common type of Kitsune mask is the Zori- Fox Mask which represents a fox spirit that can transform itself into a human or any other form. The Zori masks are made with a carefully carved wooden face painted white and with red paper mouths and eyes, with two holes on each side for the ears, attached to a black silk ribbon chinstrap.

The Kitsune fox masks are made in various sizes, some bigger and some smaller, depending on their use. The mask representing a female fox is called “Kitsune-onna” (fox woman), and it is often used during festivals like Tanabata.

While the design of each mask varies, they all share the same basic shape: a pointed chin, a bulbous nose, and exaggerated eyes. Because the masks are so distinctively designed, there aren’t many ways to mistake one for another.

They can be made out of various materials, including paper, Mache, and wood. Some may be painted in bright colors, while others have more muted tones.

Is It Ok To Wear A Kitsune Mask?

Yes! Absolutely! It is completely ok to wear a Kitsune Mask. There impose no strict rules beyond buying or wearing a Kitsune mask. Anybody who can afford this mask, without a single restriction, can wear it anytime. But as a wide inspiration, Kitsune masks are mainly put during festive or rick harvest season.

Apart from the Japanese, there are also no specific rules or guidelines if any non-Japanese ask to wear the Kitsune Masks in Japan or outside the region. Anybody can wear them whenever they want.

Can You Buy A Kitsune Mask?

Yes! Definitely! There are no strict rules and regulations if one desires to buy a kitsune mask. Japanese or non-Japanese, who afford the masks, have the freedom to buy and wear them mask. Especially when it is the rice harvest season, the Japanese wear the Fox mask or Kitsune mask to pay tribute to the gods. 

Where Can You Buy A Kitsune Mask?

You can buy a kitsune mask from Amazon or other reliable websites that sells the masks. They have a wide selection of Kitsune masks, all of which are manufactured by professionals. Also, there are several leading stores available in Japan that deal with masks. You can pay a visit to those shops, select a mask as you desire, and complete the order. They will deliver the mask within short periods. 

Is Kitsune Mask Cultural  Appropriation?

Is Kitsune Mask Cultural  Appropriation

Yes! Kitsune masks are highly valuable in Japanese culture. In Japanese culture, foxes play a vital role in religion and folklore. The kitsune are symbolic of those foxes who are messengers from Gods to human beings. Thus, it is definitely appropriating culture for every Japanese and other natives, those who wear masks at their big festivals. 

Mainly culture appropriation takes place when the community from other groups adopts iconography, fashion, or styles from that specific culture, typically without asking permission. 

Kitsune masks are used in harvesting festivals or, at times, just for fun. Consequently, those who participate in the Shinto festivals, Japanese or non-Japanese, wear this Kitsune mask. So it is a clear sign of cultural appropriation as others also take an aspect with due respect from this culture. 

What Are Kitsune Masks Used For?

Kitsune masks are mainly used by the Japanese in rice harvesting festivals to pay tribute to the gods. This is because they believe that kitsune are messengers and familiars to the Inari who is the Shinto god of rice and prosperity. Also, most attendees at the festivals take it just for fun. 

It is kitsune that bears the most significant part of Japanese culture, which can bring happiness, prosperity, and good luck, according to Japanese folk stores. 

Since there are about 13 different types of kitsune, each of them has its own elements. But they are categorized into good and bad and bad foxes. Zenko kitsune are the Good Kitsune which is strongly associated with the Gods. Besides, Single-tailed or Yako kitsunes have bad characteristics. 

Is It Offensive To Wear A Kitsune Mask?

Definitely Not! It is not offensive to wear a Kitsune mask. No strict rules are imposed on the Japanese in the case of wearing Kitsune masks. Rather, it is the signs of bringing prosperity, good luck, happiness, good fertility, and harvest. From the saying of Folk stories, most kitsune masks highly protect their users from bad luck and harm.

5 Fascinating Facts about the Kitsune Masks

  1. In the world of Japanese mythology, kitsune is a fox that can shape-shift into a human and possess supernatural powers. In modern Japan, the kitsune mask is considered to be the symbol of the fox god in Japanese folklore.
  2. The kitsune mask is a very important tradition in Japan. It is believed that wearing the mask brings happiness, prosperity, and good luck to the wearer. The kitsune mask was originally worn to show respect for the fox spirits and to ward off evil spirits. Therefore, when a couple marries in Japan, it is still common practice for them to be given a mask as a gift.
  3. In Japanese tradition, they believe that wearing the fox mask can bring happiness, prosperity, and good luck to the wearer. It is believed that people who wear the Japanese fox mask will be protected from any evil or illness.
  4. In addition, it is also believed that wearing this mask can make you look more attractive or beautiful. Thus, many young women like to wear these beautiful and colorful fox face masks on their wedding day. And it is undoubtedly an interesting part of Japanese culture.
  5. They’re truly kind cultural treasures that offer a playful, adorable, authentic look that your customers will love! During rice harvest season, there are many ritual practices, especially for those who belong to the Shinto religion. They organize various occasions and wear kitsune fox masks on those days.

Many people from the United States, United Kingdom, and other countries have asked us: where can we buy Japanese masks? For your information: some products are also available on Amazon as well. You can buy now from Amazon.

Hopefully, you got all your queries answered, and the article “Kitsune Masks Meaning, History, Types (2023 Guide)” was helpful to you.