Like the kitsune
(fox) and tanuki
(raccoon dog), the mujina
is a small furry animal
said to be a master of shapeshifting and of bewitching humans, and it may even be the most skilled
of them all.
A mujina is said to have once taken up residence in an old temple and posed as a Buddhist priest;
he went undetected for six years before thoughtlessly letting his tail show1.
In actual species the mujina is rather nebulous; while it is often translated as badger, it might also be another
name for the tanuki. Although one is a mustelid and one is a canid and they bear no close relation, at first glance the badger and raccoon dog have roughly the same shapes and markings. Without closer inspection they may be hard to tell apart, and it is not inconceivable that they were considered the same animal in times past.
In the English-speaking world, especially in Hawaii where the obake myths have their own following
and numerous sightings, the name "mujina" is often erroneously used for another type of monster entirely,
the faceless ghost called noppera-bō in Japan. This case of mistaken identity can be traced back to
a famous story written by Lafcadio Hearn, called "Mujina" and concerning the faceless apparitions.
Noppera-bō were often considered to be transformations of tanuki or mujina, hence the
title, which Hearn explained in his notes2.
1. Mizuki vol. 5 2004, p. 61.
2. source 1.