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Discover the mysterious tengu of Mount Takao

Before or after going to Mount Takao in Tokyo, you absolutely must read about tengu. This demon-like creature is popular in local folklore. Tengu falls under the category of yokai (妖怪), the spookiest Japanese monsters.

There are two types of tengu at Takaosan Yakuōin Yūkiji: raven-tengu, “karasu-tengu” in Japanese (烏天狗) and long-nose tengu, “hanadaka-tengu” (天狗). Sometimes they are called a “small tengu” and a “large tengu”. This one is blue and has a beak-like nose.Karasu_tengu

He resembles a raven and is believed to still undergo religious training. If you try to read the Chinese characters 天狗 separately, you will be surprised, as they literally mean “heavenly dog”.Karasu_tengu

These yokai are called according to the mountain where they live. Tengu of Mt. Takao is called Naigubu.

Hanadaka-tengu has a man’s body, arms and legs, paired by red, long-nosed face, bushy eyebrows and wings. You have already seen his face somewhere; a mask, to be exact. For example, among iPhone Emoji 👺.Hanadaka_tengu

Tengu are often sold as talismans. Why, you might fairly ask, would anyone want such a souvenir? An encounter with yokai means trouble, right? Everything is not that simple. As a kami (deity), tengu are viewed as the guardians of sacred mountains.Hanadaka_tenguIf your heart is pure, they will not do you any harm. People who are proud of themselves or harm the forest are in a serious danger, though. Hanadaka-tengu may grow or shrink their nose, drop them naked on the street of Tokyo or on a remote mountaintop, or create a hurricane-like wind with his feather Japanese fan, uchiwa.Hanadaka_tengu

Tengu were first mentioned in Nihon Shoki (“The Chronicles of Japan”) in the 8th century. They often turn out to be yamabushi – mountain hermits, practitioners of Shugendō. Their religion is based on esoteric Buddhism, Taoism and early beliefs of Japanese people. The mythical and most powerful tengu Sōjōbō, also referred to as King of Tengu, was an ancient yamabushi.

At Mt. Takao we can buy some interesting donuts!Hanadaka_tengu


Mount Takao (高尾山)

Address: Takao, Hachioji, Tokyo
Access: 47-minute train ride from Shinjuku (Keio line to Takaosanguchi station)
Distance to airport: 46 km from Haneda Airport
Official website: http://www.takaosan.or.jp/english/about.html

Article by Olga Kaneda

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