The Kitsune Bride's House

The legends behind a town museum and festival

By Elena Lisina    - 3 min read

There is a place in Niigata Prefecture that interests me a lot, The Kitsune-bride’s House. This small museum, located near Tsugawa Station, midway between Niigata and Aizu-Wakamatsu, houses many exhibits dedicated to kitsune.

And why does this museum interest me? Well, my favorite Japanese folklore character is the kitsune - the mysterious fox. Kitsune were said to have magical powers and live long lives before eventually transforming into a more complete form with silvery fur and five or nine tails. These legendary foxes also had an unusually keen sense of hearing, and were able to see both the past and the future.

Kitsune with nine tails
Kitsune with nine tails

Legends

According to one legend, the deity Inari once descended to earth on a snow-white fox, giving people prosperity and fertility. Not having a specific gender, Inari can appear before a person either in the image of a girl or that of a grey-haired old man. Inari were accompanied by aides, the magical kitsune.

Another legend sees a young man, Ono, who was seeking a girl of extraordinary beauty. He searched but couldn’t find this girl. One day Ono wandered into an abandoned wasteland where, suddenly, in the middle of the mist, he saw a refined beauty with sparkling red hair and almond-shaped eyes. The couple were soon married and with child.

At the hour of the child's birth, the owner's dog gave birth to a puppy and then attacked the young mistress. Fearful, the woman transformed into a fox, escaping towards the wasteland. Calling after her, Ono said, "Stay a fox if you want to, but visit me and our son. We will always be glad to see you!" Each night form then on, the fox returned home, regaining her human form, before transforming back into a fox come the morning.

Fox Weddings

There were many foxes around Mt. Kirin in Niigata Prefecture. The people living in the nearby village of Aga-machi believed that a sun shower meant that a fox wedding had begun and that such a wedding was a good omen for future harvests. These fox weddings began in the evening with many lanterns visible on the mountain slope; the more lanterns there were, the richer the harvest. Conversely, a year without a fox wedding, promising famine and death, made people worry.

A fox wedding
A fox wedding

Rather than relying on magic foxes, the people began conduct fox ceremonies themselves. The fox wedding in Ago-machi is held on May 3 each year. Mimicking a real magnificent wedding, to which the entire town attends, all of the guests' faces are made up to look like kitsune.

Getting there

From Tsugawa Station on the Ban-etsu West Line, cross the Agano River on the Kirin Red Bridge.

Tsugawa Station can be reached by train from Aizu-Wakamatsu on the JR Ban-etsu West Line, or from Niigata on the JR Shinetsu Line to Niitsu, then transferring to the JR Ban-etsu West Line for Tsugawa Station.

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Elena Lisina

Elena Lisina @shiroi.tenshi

Здравствуйте!Меня зовут Елена Лисина, и я являюсь новым Партнёром Japan Travel, ответственным за русскую версию. Путешествия пока невозможны, но есть время, чтобы продумать маршрут предстоящей поездки, пользуясь богатыми материалами сообщества, отвечающим самым разным интересам! Я буду публиковать блоги с разработанными маршрутами по разной тематике, так что приглашаю всех заинтересованных .

Original by Elena Lisina

Join the discussion

Justin Velgus a month ago
Foxes--the original yokai! Visiting Fox Village in Miyagi is a feast for the eyes, but your recommendation highlights some of the cultural associations that the theme park misses.
Elena Lisina Author a month ago
I wonder if that Fox Village is as good as Jigokudani Yaen Koen? It was really great and I visited it twice!
Sleiman Azizi a month ago
If you can, watch Akira Kurosawa's 'Dreams'. There is a short film about a fox wedding.
Elena Lisina Author a month ago
I'll try to find it, thank you, Sleiman!