Weekly Shiritori #47

Last week’s post was about Amanohashidate (あまのはしだて / 天橋立), so this week I need to start with て (te). A big thank you to everyone who joined in and played the game, especially ZoomingJapan with Tenoji (天王寺) in Osaka, Tenkawa (天川) in Nara and tempura (天ぷら), JayDee also with Tennoji in Osaka (and Tennoji Park), tengu (天狗), which are supernatural creatures, and Tennou (天皇), which is the Emperor, and lovelycomplex also with tengu. In the end, with two votes, I decided to write about…

Tengu (てんぐ / 天狗)

Tengu masks in a souvenir shop

(Image source)

As you may have gathered from this blog, I do love a Japanese mythical creature, and tengu happens to be one of my favourites. Tengu is a kind of yokai (Japanese spirits or monsters) which can often be found in folklore and literature. I first came across tengu at the Oni Matsuri (Demon Festival) in Toyohashi (read more about the Oni Matsuri here), where the tengu and oni (demon) chased each other around the town. Here he is:


Tengu at the Oni Matsuri in Toyohashi

The tengu is characterised by his long nose, although earlier images of tengu actually showed them with noses which were more like beaks, such as in this ukiyo-e (Japanese woodblock print):

Ushiwaka-maru training with the tengu (1859), by Kunitsuna Utagawa (1805-1868)

(Image source)

The name ‘tengu’ comes from the Chinese demon ‘Tiangou‘. which means ‘heavenly dog’, although tengu were originally thought to be birds of prey, like kites (hence the beaks). Like many yokai, I suspect tengu can change shape a bit, and that is why they are also often perceived as quite human-like.

A lot of yokai are disruptive or bad, and tengu is no exception (although in the Oni Matsuri I never did quite figure out who was trying to kill who). Tengu started out as demons and harbingers of war, but some people do think of them as being protectors of the mountains and forests.

There’s quite a lot of information online about tengu, and a good starting place is probably Wikipedia. Unfortunately, I don’t have much time to write this week as I’m still trying to make up my word count for NaNoWriMo (nearly at 30,000 words but should be at nearly 37,000 by now) and will be working at Hyper Japan 2012 Christmas on Friday, Saturday and Sunday! So this week I’m afraid I’m going to leave you with just a taste of tengu, and a few more images. I’m sure this won’t be the last time we speak of him! 😉

Figure of Tengu, Kamakura City ©Yasufumi Nishi/© JNTO

Mirokuji Temple Mt. Kashosan, Ota City ©Gunma prefecture/© JNTO

A tengu mikoshi (portable shrine) in the city of Beppu, Ōita Prefecture, on Kyūshū.

(Image source)


Tengu (てんぐ) ends with ぐ (gu), so next week I will be looking for a noun beginning with “gu”. If you have any suggestions, please leave them below and I’ll give you a mention next week. It’s getting tougher now as the year comes to an end (only 5 weeks to go!), so I really appreciate your ideas and input! But don’t forget, no words ending in ん! (^_^)v

2 thoughts on “Weekly Shiritori #47

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