Fox populations: Japan

An image of a map with a pin on Japan
The red fox is present in Japan

Foxes are widespread in Asia and Japan but little is known of their ecology in this regions. Some authors have classified foxes in southern Japan as a subspecies (Vulpes vulpes japonica) of the Eurasian fox (Vulpes vulpes).

The fox, or Kitsune in Japanese, is a popular subject in the Japanese folklore. Shape shifting is also commonly associated with foxes. In particular, kitsune, or spirit fox is part of the Shinto religion. In many of these stories, foxes take the form of humans, particularly women, to ensnare unwary humans.

Japanese studies on red foxes

An image of the River Tone in Japan
The River Tone

A study conducted in the Chiba Prefecture, central Japan, found that foxes occur in cities, town and villages, mainly along the River Tone and in various rural districts. The study found that the population has been decreasing recently.

In the Tochigi Prefecture in central Japan, the main cause of death for adult and juvenile foxes was road collision, as has also been found in many studies in Europe and North America. However, in contrast to European and North American fox populations, this Japanese population was found on average to be older (6% of all animals were 5 years or older) suggesting a low hunting pressure in the area.


In Hokkaido, the northernmost island of Japan, Echinococcus multilocularis is becoming a serious problem. The Japanese authorities frequently screen wildlife in mainland Japan to ensure that it remains free from E. multilocularis.

Diet and territoriality

A study in the Shiretoko National Park in Hokkaido, established that the diet of foxes contained anthropogenic food (i.e. food derived from human production) and carcasses of spawning salmon at different times of the year. Where food was not spatially concentrated, resident foxes were territorial and fox families defended their territories from intruding foxes. Interestingly, the study found that where food distribution was concentrated, fox ranges overlapped and foxes travelled up to 8 km in a day to reach the food. This absence of territoriality has also been observed by researchers in the Arabian peninsula.

Explore the menu on the left to find out more about foxes in different regions. If you want more specific information on foxes in certain regions, please click on your region of interest and you will find links to other websites.

Websites of interest

There are also a lot of external websites on fox folklore in Japan. The ones listed here have general information and images about foxes:

  • Academia Issendai - Chinese, Japanese, Korean stories and more on kitsune
  • Wikipedia
  • The kitsune page


  • Cavallini, P. (2002) Ranging behaviour of the red fox (Vulpes vulpes) in rural southern Japan. Journal of Mammalogy 73, 321-323.
  • Kamiya, H., Inaba, T., Sato, H. & Osanai, A. (2003) A red fox, Vulpes vulpes shrencki, infected with Echinococcus multilocularis was introduced from Hokkaido Island, where E. multilocularis is endemic, to Aomori, northern part of the mainland Japan. Japanese Journal of Infectious Diseases 56, 180-181.
  • Keiji, O., Masahiko, A. & Sadayoshi K. (1999) Distribution of the red fox, Vulpes vulpes, in Chiba Prefecture, central Japan. Journal of the Natural History Museum and Institute 5, 109-114.
  • Takeuchi, M. & Koganezawa, M. (1994) Age distribution, sex ratio and mortality of the red fox Vulpes vulpes in Tochigi, central Japan: an estimation suing a museum collection. Researches on Population Ecology 36, 37-43.
  • Tsukada, H. (1997) A division between foraging range and territory related to food distribution in the red fox. Ethology 15, 27-37.