Foxes feature prominently both in Japanese folklore and popular culture. As some grape Japan readers may recall, you can see fox wedding processions, find an astonishing variety of fox masks at specialized stores, and even dine on noodles at a cafe where you'll be served by fox-eared staff.

This spring, however, we may very well see a new wave in the popularity of foxes thanks to a fox dance that has enchanted the Japanese corner of the internet.

It all started with Japanese baseball Pacific League team Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters, who are based in Japan's northernmost island and prefecture, Hokkaido. As you can tell from their mascot called Frep the Fox, based on the Ezo red fox native to the region, they already had a soft spot for foxes.

But the team really brought out their love for foxes with the beginning of the 2022 season when their cheerleader team, Fighters Girl, introduced a new dance number. Donning fuzzy fox ears, they dance a catchy routine to the 2013 viral hit song "The Fox (What Does the Fox Say?)" by Norwegian comedy duo Ylvis.

Complete with fox hand signs and fox paw moves, their cute choreography, paired with Ylvis' humorous fox yelping and upbeat electronic dance music, was an instant hit among audience members.

However, their きつねダンス kitsune dansu (kitsune being the Japanese word for fox) really went viral after the Pacific League's official YouTube channel posted videos of it.

According to Netlab, the dance's popularity first spread among fans of all teams in the Pacific League when the channel posted a video from the Fighters' game against the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks showing audience members dancing along, but also focusing on the benches, where not only Fighters players were joining along, but even Hawks players, including popular player Nobuhiro Matsuda, nicknamed 熱男 atsuo (literally "hot man") for saying the phrase during his home run ritual.

And then in May, several videos, such as the one below, showcasing the cheerleaders and mascots dancing and the excitement generated by the routine, exceeded a million views:

The "addictive" nature of the dance, whose popularity has now crossed league lines and even spread beyond baseball fans, is evident from some of the comments they have elicited, such as:

  • I've seen the Kitsune Dance so much that I have to watch it at least once a day to get by."
  • "It's a magical dance that makes the cheerleaders even cuter than usual"
  • "I should be tired of seeing it by now, but I keep coming back to see it every day."

Cheerleaders, players, and audience members aren't the only ones getting in on the action. Even mascots from other teams are joining the fox dance craze. When the Fighters faced the Hiroshima Carp in a Pacific-Central interleague game on May 31st, Nippon Ham Fighters official mascots Frep The Fox and Polly Polaris (a Eurasian red squirrel) duked it out with Hiroshima Carp's mascot Slyly in a fox dance dance-off. Slyly, not to be outdone by the Hokkaido mascots, showed some impressive moves, using his bulging belly to humorous effect.

If you'd like to join in the fun (and maybe even post your own video on TikTok or other social video platforms), Fighters Girl 滝谷美夢 Miyu Takiya shows you how to do the Kitsune Dance in a YouTube Shorts video here:

By - Ben K.