Kuda-Gitsune - 管狐,くだぎつね - "pipefox" - [yokai]
• About this yokai: a tiny, pocket-sized, weasel-like Kitsune said to be a type of "tsukimono" which can possess an entire family/household: Often serving as a type of magical familiar passed between generation to generation, these tiny kitsune are usually only be seen by the family or those with strong abilities, These kitsune are so small that they can conveniently be carried in matchboxes, pockets, sleeves or bamboo pipes.
Families that own & use Kuda-gitsune where sometimes called "kuda-mochi." - Diviners capable of Clairvoyancy; divulging a person's past or foretelling their future; these ascetics were also said to be capable of performing curses, bringing calamity upon their enemies. They would send the foxes out to possess their enemies, causing illness or stealing things that the family might want. [These families were often said to be looked down upon, distrusted or shunned by their neighbours for these reasons.]
...if kept well, a family in possession will become incredibly rich & powerful... However, kudagitsune are also incredibly difficult to care for as they are known to multiply rapidly until there are well over 75 to one household! The gluttonous kitsune will demand to be fed in order to work and will often quickly eat their masters out of house and home. So, keeping too many is a sure way to bring a family to ruin. they are incredibly difficult to get rid of. Even if another person gives the fox to someone else, if the fox does not like the way the person is nurturing it, it will return to its original owner.
According to Shigeru Mizuki's Encyclopedia of Yokai: There used to be a town doctor named Naosada Ito living in the Chiyoda Ward area of Tokyo, who often cured people possessed by this yokai. The story is found in "Koshi Yawa" (A Tale of Koshi, 1911) its said that one way of exorcising a Kuda-gitsune is to carry a folded paper with drawings of graves from 7 different cemeteries on them until the Kuda-gitsune is expelled through the fingertips. - A couple of Negative Symptoms of possession include sudden high fevers, illness and an insatiable cravings for raw fish & miso soup.
[image via: waseda museum archive.] - According to the Sōzan Chomon Kishū (想山著聞奇集) the kuda-gitsune was described as a weasel-sized fox which can be kept in a pipe. - There was a time in ancient japan when small mammels such as tanuki, foxes & weasels, were often equated to each other. so there are likely variants related to those as well. [similarly but mostly unrelated the bean-sized mamedanuki are also sometimes also said to live in bamboo pipes.] though, its important to note that these are often far removed from the kuda-gitsune's overall.
The kuda-gitsune has roots relating it to Shugendō traditions in Nagano prefecture, which then spread throughout the mountan regions and across central Japan. These kitsune & practitioners are known by various other names from region to region. - Another name for them is "izuna" (飯綱, meaning least weasel), and psychics in Niigata, the Chūbu region, are said to use these to gain supernatural powers and make divinations. These users known as "izuna-tsukai" (飯綱使い, "izuna-users") - Notably, There are less of "kuda-gitsune" in Kantō specifically because it is instead said to be the domain of two tailed Osaki (a similar kitsune which has unique origins, and is often linked to the story of Tamamo no mae.)
• Pop culture appearances: Pocket kitsune appear widely in anime and games such as XXXholic, Persona & Final Fantasy to name a few! (though they usually take on a more direct kitsune appearance.)
• see also: Osaki, Shirodokkuri & Mamedanuki.