Lost in Translation #14 – Natsume Yûjinchô Roku

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Hey guys, time for another Lost in Translation! This entry comes from episode 6 of Natsume Yûjinchô Roku, where we find Kitamoto describing his “otherworldly” experience with Natsume after school thusly:

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This might sound a little out of context, but anyone who’s familiar with Japanese folklore might see the connection between foxes and the spirit world. In fact, the translation is not really wrong when we look at Kitamoto’s original line:

まるで狐につままれたような…

maru de kitsune ni tsumamareta youna

as if [a] fox (be) held [up] (manner)

In other words, the phrase 狐につままれる probably best translates to “being bewitched”, and involves being subject to a bizarre experience that almost feels surreal. It comes from Japanese folklore that depicts foxes being able to take on the appearance of humans in order to deceive them.

If you recall my Lost in Translation entry on March comes in like a Lion, I mentioned at one point that foxes have a special role in Japanese spirituality. Quite similarly, this same role extends itself to the occult wherein they are said to bewitch humans in order to either coerce the latter into doing them favors (i.e. give them food or shelter), or worse, exact karma for being exceptionally proud.

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As a result, the phrase 狐につままれる refers to this similar act of being tricked by a fox, which in many cases is often arbitrary (they just like to mess around with humans). On a slightly unrelated note, the lore also states that men are the more common targets of deception, whilst women tend to be possessed. Perhaps this is where the sexually-charged “foxy” adjective comes from? Who knows, but it kinda makes sense when you think about how a fox can move quite gracefully; just like a seductive woman.

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So yeah, just a simple entry for this installment of Lost in Translation. It’s always nice to see Japanese folklore cropping itself up in anime from time to time. Anything you’ve seen that you think might have been Lost in Translation? Do let me know in the comments below. Until next time, ciao!

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