Myths and Folklore Wiki

Mujina (貉 or むじな, Mujina) is an old Japanese term primarily referring to the badger. In some regions the term refers instead to the raccoon dog (tanuki) or fox (kitsune). The Mujina of Japanese folklore is an avid shapeshifter and deceiver of humans. One of the forms the mujina is purported to take, is that of a "faceless ghost" . The faceless ghost is often referred to by English speakers as a mujina, but the Japanese know it as Noppera-Bō.

Mujina are small furry animals and are terrifying by nature but not actually malicious or violent at all. They'll play tricks on anyone, but they particularly enjoy tormenting wicked people and making them look like fools.

Myths and Legends

Images - 2019-09-09T122447.394.jpg

Mujina, or badgers, live in the mountains, generally far from human society. These days, ordinary badgers are usually called anaguma, while the term mujina usually refers to their yokai form. They are frequently confused with tanuki because of their similar size, appearance, and magical prowess. Additionally, in some regions tanuki are called mujina, while mujina are called tanuki. In others, the term mami is used to apply to both animals.

Mujina are slightly less famous as yokai than other shape-changing animals. They are very shy and do not normally like to be seen by or interact with humans. Mujina encounters are much less common than those with other animal yokai. The few mujina which do live among human society take great care not to betray their disguise in any way, unlike other animals which are often much more careless.

When it is dark and quiet, and there are no humans around, it is said that mujina like to shift into a humanoid form – usually that of a young boy wearing a tiny kimono – and sing songs in the street. If approached by a stranger, they run away into the darkness and transform back into animal form.

The most well-known form mujina take is that of a nopperabō, a seemingly normal human form, but with no facial features whatsoever. They use this form to scare and panic humans who wander mountain or village roads at night time. Because of this, the two yokai are often confused, and noppera-bō are sometimes referred to mistakenly as mujina. However, other animal yokai do take up this same form, and there are non-animal noppera-bō as well, so care should be taken to avoid this misunderstanding.

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 that 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 that the hunter was legitimately confused and he was judged not guilty.

In Japanese folklore, like the fox and the tanuki, they are frequently depicted as a yōkai that shapeshifts and deceives humans. They are first seen in literature in the Nihon Shoki in the part about Empress Suiko's 35th year (627), where it states, "in 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)," showing that in that era, there was already the general idea that mujina shapeshift and deceives humans.[1] 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.