Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Foxy Japan

Origami Inari Fox (from www.h5.dion.ne.jp)

A few weeks back I had a rather tasty style of rice for school lunch known as kitsunegohan. I pressed the name into my memory but gave no more thought to it (other than to enjoy it of course).

Some days later the weather was rather sporadic - sunny with sudden bursts of rain - and I heard a teacher refer to it as kitsunenoyomeiri. My brain, despite being rather cold and wrapped up in itself at the time, sparked at recognising kitsune and I asked what it referred to. I discovered that kitsune -狐- is Japanese for fox, kitsunegohan meaning "fox rice" and kitsunenoyomeiri -- meaning "the fox's wedding."

After some asking around and a little research I discovered that in Japanese culture the fox is perceived as a highly intelligent and magical creature, featuring heavily in folklore. In Shintoism, the god of rice - Inari* - uses foxes as his messengers. It is from here the name for the rice dish comes from. It is also believed that foxes marry eachother during rain showers, hence this type of weather referred to as "the fox's wedding." Foxes are also perceived as tricksters and deceivers, and it was once believed that any woman out on her own at night could be a fox in disguise. It is also believed that a fox has the ability to possess a human and control his actions for its own purposes.

*Inarizushi -稲荷寿司- is a type of sushi dish, consisting of rice stuffed into a layer of fried tofu. It's very delicious and tastes (obviously) very similar to fox rice.

An all that from a tasty bowl of rice.

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