The mass of history and mythology surrounding the figure of the Tengu makes it almost impossible to give a brief review of them. Through the ages even the way these creatures are perceived has changed a lot, originally portrayed as bad omens and demonic war bringers they have now become revered as a kind of demigod of the mountains.
As such the modern Tengu blurs the line between folk legend and religion – yokai or deity? It isn’t always so clear-cut.
In both traditions the basic image of the Tengu is essentially the same. They are winged humanoids with bright red skin and long noses, which has earned them the name ‘Hanadaka Tengu’ (Long Nosed Tengu).
Tesso (The iron rat) is truly a one of a kind yokai. A rat demon the size of a full-grown man, armed with metal teeth and claws, capable of shredding and tearing almost anything. Combine this with a pied-piper like ability to call a legion of real rats to do his destructive bidding, and Tesso becomes quite a formidable foe to be reckoned with
Today’s yokai shares something in common with Hashi Hime in that also Tesso began life as a human, a buddhist monk named Raigo, but was later transformed into a vengeful yokai. Again it was sheer force of will, and a driving anger, that provde the catalyst for the transformation.
I already knew the basic story of how Raigo came to turn into his rodent form, however as Raigo’s temple (Mii-Dera) is not far from where I live, I decided to make the trip there and see if I could dig up anything connected with the myth.
This week I made a trip to Uji to try and find the shrine dedicated to this lovely lady – Hashi Hime (illustrated here by Demonicangel-Bayou from Deviant Art).
Hashi Hime, literally ”The Bridge Princess’, is somewhat a rarity in yokai circle as she started life as human who transformed herself into a vengeful yokai by sheer willpower. The name appears in many tales and she herself in many incarnations. Perhaps the most famous variation is that of the jealous wife who is driven to distraction by her husband’s infidelity and swears revenge.
Despite having posted about Tanukis just recently a couple of things happened that made me want to do an update.
Firstly, I went to the town of Shigaraki – the spiritual home of the ceramic Tanuki, producing a staggering number of Tanuki figures.
Secondly, I remembered another nice story about a ceramic Tanuki saving Kyoto, and that I had photos of the shrine dedicated to that Tanuki.
Lastly, an update will be a great excuse to show you all a rather famous Japanese TV commercial featuring those huge testicles.
So here you are, a second helping of Tanuki goodness.
I first saw Ken Ketsu in Tokyo about four years ago and he’s been my favorite Japanese Mascot ever since.