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Kuda-gitsune or Kanko (管狐, "pipe fox") is a type of spirit possession in Japanese legends. Starting in Nagano Prefecture, it is told about in the Chūbu region and also in parts of the Tōkai region, southern Kantō region, Tōhoku region, and so on. There are no legends of kudagitsune in Kantō besides the Chiba Prefecture and Kanagawa Prefecture, and this is said to be because Kantō is the domain of the osaki.
Just like its name says, there are various legends about how they are the size small enough to fit into a bamboo pipe or a size about as big as a match box and would multiply until there were 75 of them, and so on.
Another name for them is "izuna" (飯綱, meaning least weasel), and psychics in Niigata, the Chūbu region, and the Kantō region and "izuna-tsukai" (飯綱使い, "izuna-users") in Shinshū have these and use them to gain supernatural powers and make divinations. It is believed that izuna-tsukai (izuna-users) make use of izuna for beneficial religious uses such as foretelling prophecies, and at the same time also for evil purposes such as to fulfill requests to make the izuna go possess and give illness to someone the requester hates.
Sometimes it is told to be a type of kitsune-tsuki and depending on the region, families that have kudagitsune could sometimes be called "kuda-mochi" ("kuda"-haver), "kuda-ya" ("kuda"-proprieter), "kuda-tsukai" ("kuda"-user), and "kuda-shō" and be detested. In many legends, kudagitsune do not possess an individual, but instead a family, and it is thought that one particular trait that they have is that unlike the osaki that would do things on its own even if its master did not will it, the kudagitsune is to be "used" by its master and does as its master wills it to do. It is said that the kudagitsune, following the master's will, would procure goods from other families, so a family that keeps and raises a kudagitsune would gradually grow wealthy, but it is also said that although the family does grow wealthy at first, the kudagitsune would multiply until there were 75 of them, and so they would eventually eat away at the family's wealth making them decline.
In the Sōzan Chomon Kishū (想山著聞奇集) the kuda-gitsune is described as a rat-sized fox which can be kept in a pipe.
According to the Zen'an Zuihitsu (善庵随筆) the kanko is a fox the size of a weasel or rat, with vertical eyes and thin hair. The magic-user summons the kanko to appear inside a bamboo pipe he is holding, whereupon the fox will answer all the questions it is asked. The origin of this practice is traced back to a yamabushi who obtained this art while undergoing strict asceticism on Mount Kinpu. These Kanko are said to be numerous in the northern mountains of Suruga, Tōtōmi, and Mikawa Provinces.
Researcher Inoue Enryō in his Yōkaigaku Kōgi (妖怪學講義), quotes a newspaper article regarding the kanko, in which it is a tiny, mouse-sized creature which hails from Shinano Province. It is named for its tail, which is like a pipe cut in half. It can be tamed and kept in a pocket or sleeve, and uses its supernatural power to seek out assorted information which it then whispers to its master. A person who keeps it is thus able to see into both the past and future. Whereas, a drawing by Matsura Seizan in the early/mid-nineteenth century, depicts a kuda-gitsune that greatly resembles the masked palm civet.
de Visser, M. W. (1908). "The Fox and the Badger in Japanese Folklore". Transactions of the Asiatic Society of Japan. Z. P. Maruya & Co. 36 (3): 122–124.
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