Mujina (貉) is an old Japanese term primarily referring to the Japanese badger. In some regions the term refers instead to the raccoon dog (also called tanuki) or to introduced civets. Adding to the confusion, in some regions badger-like animals are also known as mami, and in one part of Tochigi Prefecture badgers are referred to as tanuki and raccoon dogs are referred to as mujina.
The confusion over the term mujina has led to legal consequences in Japan. In Tochigi Prefecture in 1924, a hunter killed a raccoon dog, which he believed to be called a mujina. He believed badgers were a protected species as they were called tanuki in Tochigi Prefecture. However, the law banning the hunting of tanuki was referring to such raccoon dogs, as a raccoon dog is called tanuki in Tokyo. The Japanese Supreme Court ruled the hunter was legitimately confused and he was judged not guilty.
In Japanese folklore, like the fox and the raccoon dog, badgers are frequently depicted as yōkai that shapeshift and deceive humans. These badger demons (mujina) often take the form of an attractive woman with a promiscuous nature, usually causing mischief in their partners lives. They are first seen in literature in the Nihon Shoki in the part about Empress Suiko's 35th year (627), where it states, "[I]n two months of spring, there are mujina in the country of Mutsu (春2月、陸奥国に狢有り), they turn into humans and sing songs (人となりて歌う)" demonstrating that, in that era, there was the general idea that mujina shapeshift and deceive humans. In the Shimōsa region, they are called kabukiri-kozō (かぶきり小僧), and they would shapeshift into a kozō (little monk) wearing a strangely short kimono with a kappa-like bobbed head, and frequently appear on roads at night without many people and say, "drink water, drink tea (水飲め、茶を飲め)." The story in Lafcadio Hearn kaidan collections called "Mujina" about the witnessing of a faceless ghost (a noppera-bō) is also well-known.
Sightings in Hawaii
On May 19, 1959, Honolulu Advertiser reporter Bob Krauss reported a sighting of a mujina at the Waialae Drive-In Theatre in Kahala. Krauss reported the witness watched a woman combing her hair in the women's restroom, and when the witness came close enough, the mujina turned, revealing her featureless face. The witness was reported to have been admitted to the hospital for a nervous breakdown. Noted Hawaiian historian, folklorist, and author Glen Grant, in a 1981 radio interview, dismissed the story as rumor, only to be called by the witness herself, who gave more details on the event, including the previously unreported detail that the mujina in question had red hair. The drive-in no longer exists, having been torn down to make room for Public Storage.
The term can also refer to the following:
- "Mujina", a short story relating to the above legends, found in Lafcadio Hearn's book Kwaidan: Stories and Studies of Strange Things
- Mujina-no-yu is an onsen facility in Nasu, Tochigi, Japan
- de Visser, M. W. (1908). "The Fox and the Badger in Japanese Folklore". Transactions of the Asiatic Society of Japan. 36: 1–159. Retrieved 2006-12-14.
- Casal, U. A. (1959). "The Goblin Fox and Badger and Other Witch Animals of Japan". Folklore Studies. 18: 1–93. doi:10.2307/1177429. JSTOR 1177429.
- Hearn, Lafcadio; Oliver Wendell Holmes (1904). Kwaidan: Stories and Studies of Strange Things. Houghton, Mifflin and company. pp. 77–80.