Kitsune Tattoo Meaning, Designs & Ideas

The kitsune tattoo holds different meanings for people who choose this image. For some, the kitsune represents a desire to be someone else or to take on the characteristics of other people. The kitsune tattoo can also represent wisdom and power. Some people who get a tattoo of a kitsune do so because of its spiritual representation.

In this article, we’ll explore the various symbolisms of the kitsune tattoo.

What Is a Kitsune?

Kitsune is the Japanese word for ‘fox’; however, it refers to foxes in Japanese folklore. In these Japanese legends, the kitsune have special powers that they develop as they grow older. For example, kitsune can become invisible, fly, create fire, and shapeshift.

In ancient times, Japanese people lived closely with foxes, and thus they were incorporated into their stories. One of the defining characteristics of a kitsune is the number of tails it has. A kitsune can have up to nine tails; the more tails it has the more power and wisdom it has.

Kitsune Tattoos

The majority of kitsune tattoos are done in color, with a few illustrated in black and gray ink. Some images of the kitsune depict a realistic fox while others are more animated. Some show a kitsune mask, sometimes with a person behind it. 

The tails of a kitsune are usually featured in the tattoo since these are an important aspect of the creature. Kitsune tattoos are commonly done on the arm including the shoulder and forearm.

Zenko and Yako

There are two main types of kitsune. Zenko is described as being good and faithful. They are able to offer protection and help to those who need it. They may act as a defender or guardian. A person who chooses a zenko kitsune tattoo may do so because they like what it represents–it is a source of goodness in what can be seen as a hostile world.

On the other hand, the yako is a sly, mischievous creature that is known to steal, seduce, and lead people astray. It uses its powers to trick people or to harm them. Someone who chooses a yako kitsune tattoo may be illustrating their own sly or sneaky nature.

Both the zenko and the yako can be depicted as a realistic or animated version of a fox in a tattoo. However, the zenko tends to have a more calm and friendly appearance, while the yako is often illustrated with its teeth bared to show its fierceness.


Kitsune can transform themselves from a fox into a human, most commonly women or girls. A person who chooses a kitsune tattoo might do so because they have a wish to be different than they are. They might feel that their physical body or outward appearance does not represent who they really are inside.

Someone might get a kitsune tattoo because they are able to easily transition from one personality or character to another. Perhaps they are even an actor or actress and the kitsune represents the person’s ability to deceive others through their performance.


Since the kitsune has the ability to become invisible, a person might get this tattoo because they wish they could do the same. Maybe they feel shame or embarrassment about some aspect of themselves and the kitsune represents an escape route. 

A person may also like the idea of being able to sneak around and spy on others without being seen. They may view the kitsune’s abilities as a way to find out information or learn things that they otherwise would not know.

Wisdom and Power

A kitsune tattoo, particularly one that has many tails, can illustrate how wise and powerful the person is or wishes to be. Since kitsune grow wiser with age, the person might be looking ahead to their future and hoping that they will also have more wisdom as they get older.

Someone who wishes to have great power, whether this be in their career or other aspects of their life, might also choose a kitsune tattoo. Whether the person intends to use their power for good, like a zenko, or for vengeful reasons, like a yako, the kitsune represents a wish for more control.

Popular Culture

The kitsune, in addition to being a fixture in Japanese folklore, has also made its way into pop culture. Books, graphic novels, music, video games, and plays all feature the kitsune as a character.

Fans of a particular comic or video game that includes a kitsune might get this tattoo because they enjoy the character. They might incorporate other aspects of the book or the play into their tattoo as well.

Spiritual Messengers

Some believe that the kitsune is able to act as a messenger, receiving and sending messages to loved ones who have passed. Someone who is hoping to have a connection with another person in the afterlife might choose to get a kitsune tattoo for this reason. They may see the kitsune as representing their ability to communicate with a loved one.

Fire and Lightning

One of the kitsune’s special powers is that it can create fire and lightning. This would typically be done to lead people off course or to get revenge on someone who has harmed them. A person might choose this tattoo because they like the vengeful aspect of it. They may have been hurt in the past and like the idea of the other person being punished.


Kitsune are able to fly, which gives them an advantage in the world. Flight is a commonly desired power by many people as it offers a sense of freedom that humans do not have. A person may choose this tattoo because it represents being free from their responsibilities. It can also represent a desire to travel and move about the world with ease.


Kitsune are able to use their powers to seduce people, an enticing ability for some. A person might choose the kitsune tattoo because they like the idea of having seductive powers and having people interested in them.

Featured image by Julie Agnes, licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0.

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