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Cult Med Psychiatry. 1991 Dec;15(4):421-51.

Between folk concepts of illness and psychiatric diagnosis: kitsune-tsuki (fox possession) in a mountain village of western Japan.

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  • 1Department of Psychiatry, Tokyo Metropolitan Toshima General Hospital.


Two cases of kitsune-tsuki (fox possession) in a mountain village are examined from psychiatric and ethnographic viewpoints. Kitsune-tsuki, one of the most familiar expressions of "madness" in Japan, represents, as an interactive performance, religious and mythopoetic contexts metaphorically in time of crises. The atypical symptoms and the complicated clinical process of these cases reflect a multistratified cultural background and its transformation; communal religion, folk tales, ky├┤gen play, shared concepts of illness, and the post-war rise of one religious cult. The psychiatric diagnosis, trying to arrive at a single correct understanding, partially translates the entangled indigenous illness. Focusing on these issues; the dichotomy between form and content of mental illness, the atypicality of the symptoms and the restructive process of illness experiences, the author reconsiders the possibility of interpretation, diagnosis and treatment which respect the multiple realities.

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