Kitsune (キツネ) is the Japanese word for “fox", but in the Japanese folklore it designates a mythical creature, the messenger of Inari Ōkami, one of the most important kami in the Shinto religion. Since the Fushimi Inari Taisha in Kyoto is the head shrine of Inari, there are hundreds of statues representing kitsune.
Kitsune are believed to possess superior knowledge, long life, and magical powers. Stories depict them as intelligent beings and as possessing magical abilities that increase with their age and wisdom. A kitsune is a shapeshifter, and usually when it reaches the age of 100 years, it learn the ability to take on a human form. Foxes are also regarded to be faithful guardians, friends, lovers, and wives. Kitsune keep their promises and strive to repay any favor. Their gifts are usually intangibles, such as protection, knowledge, or long life.
Zenko Kitsune (善狐, literally good foxes) are benevolent, celestial foxes associated with the god Inari; they are sometimes simply called Inari foxes.