Sotan Gitsune (宗旦狐)

Sotan gitsune (fox) was a monster fox, a story of which has been passed down at the Shokoku-ji Temple in Kamigyo Ward, Kyoto City. As the name 'Sotan' suggests, it disguised itself as SEN no Sotan, who strengthened the foundation of Sen-ke family tea ceremony school, to occasionally appear in tea parties.


Once upon a time, a tea ceremony of SEN no Sotan was held at Shokoku-ji Temple. The wonderful temae (tea serving method) of Sotan made the participating chajin (master of the tea ceremony) as well as his disciples that usually saw the procedure to stare with awe. However, Sotan appeared again after Sotan left and apologized for being late. Similar incidents occurred several times, so that Sotan's disciples began to think that there should be an imposer of Sotan.

Several days later, they waited until Sotan appeared in a tea ceremony room and began to interrogate the fake Sotan after confirming that real Sotan was at home. Then, the fake Sotan honestly admitted that he was just an imposer and an old fox living among bushes of a temple that wanted to do temae himself since he was always awed by the temae of Sotan, and swore to never cause a mischief ever again before escaping as a fox. The disciples were impressed by the skills of Sotan gitsune and did not chase after the fox.

Time passed to the end of the Edo period. Sotan Gitsune transformed as an Unsui (a wandering Buddhist monk) and studied at Shokoku-ji Temple. He meditated along with other Unsui, went around for Takuhatsu (a traditional form of begging, common to Buddhist monks in Japan), and occasionally tried all his power to recover the temple from its financial crisis. He sometimes played go (a Japanese board game played with black and white stones) in the house in front of the gate. He occasionally let out a fox tail by absorbing too much in go, but people associated with him despite knowing his fox identity.

Bon (annual Buddhist even) of One Year
A tofu shop in front of a gate of the temple was on the verge of facing bankruptcy due to financial difficulty. Sotan Gitsune advised the shop keeper to collect and sell a great amount of lotus leaves, and buy soy beans from the profit. The tofu shop was able to rebuild the business because of it. The tofu shop keeper decided to return the favor by making a tempura of mice considered to be the favorite food of foxes and sent it to Sotan Gitsune. However, Sotan Gitsune refrained, saying that his divine power will be lost by eating it. Despite saying so, he could not stop staring at his favorite food and ate it since he could not wait. Sotan Gitsune immediately returned to a fox, and dogs in the neighborhood saw it and started barking hard. The fox escaped instantaneously into the bush, but it was too frantic to see the destination and so fell into a well to death (according to other theories, the fox was shot by a hunter with a gun or held the farewell tea ceremony by predicting his own death).

Shokoku-ji Temple built a small shrine for Sotan Inari (fox deity), mourning the death of Sotan Gitsune that had contributed greatly for the temple, and made the fox the guardian deity of the So-do Hall (a hall for meditation). Even today Sotan Inari is still worshipped in a small shrine within the precincts of the Shokoku-ji Temple.

[Original Japanese]