Kayo Yokoyama

Kitsunebi/Foxfires, 2019

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Kayo Yokoyama | Kitsunebi / Foxfires

Image: Keith Maxwell

The mystery of the forest is astounding. As humans, we all fear having fires in the forest, and we all share a fascination with fire and fear. Kitsunebi/Foxfires creates a wonder of fire in the forest.

The Japanese folktale of the kitsunebi (fox fire) is best known for its mysterious flames which appear where there has been no presence of fire, appearing in a line before quickly disappearing and re-appearing in yet another place.

Generally, the colour of the fire is red orange, but witnesses are said to have seen blue hues appear. It is often said that foxes trick humans, so the kitsunebi would light up places where there are no roads, making humans lose their way. 

Written in the late 15th Century, the Honchō-Shokkan book contains a statement about how foxes would use withered trees on the ground to make fires. This reference is still shrouded in mystery, but it’s believed it does not directly refer to foxes, but instead is connected to withered trees and the light of mushroom roots that cling to rotten trees. There are still many references which remain unexplained. 

A special thank you to Clive Pullman and Roy Antow.