"Autumn fires" is an apt one. Mt. Takao（599m) in western Tokyo (Hachioji city) is now covered with blazing autumn leaves. At Yakuo-in Temple on the mountain, several statues of the curious entities called Tengu stand. These winged creatures are striking a pose as if they are trying to look as cool as possible. The mountain is said to be a home of Tengu, a class of supernatural beings or Yōkai, who have been known to us since olden days.
It is most likely that Harry Potter knows them well because some of them are featured in a book used at Hogwarts.＊１ Some of the Tengu have beaked mouths and wings while some have very long noses, reddish faces, and large eyes. They are supposed to live in forests and mountains and have the magical ability of invisibility, and can fly.
Rich in diversity of shape, size, and characteristics, the Tengu are one of the leading monster-spirits found in Japanese folklore, legends, literature, Kabuki, and pop culture. At times, some Tengu Kings(大天狗）have been regarded as good beings or minor-kami(gods) though in most cases the rest have been thought to do evil deeds such as kidnapping children and seducing people into evil and arrogance. Tengu-ni-naru (to become a tengu) means to become conceited.
Mt. Takao has always been a mecca of Shugendo(修験道：a Kami-Buddha combinatory sect), which has roots in mountain worship, old Shintoism, and animistic religions. The tengu who belong to the mountain have always been regarded with respect as the attendants and protectors of the principal deity of the temple, Izuna Dai-Gongen(飯縄大権現）. Interestingly, there have been many sightings of tengu on the Takao mountains. Whew!
The temple is formally called "Takao-san Yakuo-in Yuki-ji, 高尾山薬王院有喜寺”. It was founded in 744 and belongs to Shingon Buddhism. The temple buildings feature elaborate carvings and beautiful paintings. The temple's official website(English).
"Little Daruma and Little Tengu" is one of my favorite picture books. This little tengu is so kawaii (cute).
by Utagawa Kuniyoshi, Edo period
Some researchers say that the bird-like Tengu called Karasu(crow) Tengu(the tengu with beaked mouths and wings) come from the Hindu eagle deity Garuda. ↑ image source *2
Yamabushi, ↑ Japanese mountain ascetics. The clothes of the Tengu look a lot like Yamabushi's clothes. image source
Can you see Mt. Fuji in the center?
As Mt. Takao is located just 50 kilometers from the heart of Tokyo, many people go hiking there. It was an easy climb for us and it took only about an hour and a half to reach the summit. You can use cable cars or bench lifts to reach the top as well. It has been awarded three stars by Michelin since 2007, and it seems to me that the number of hikers has increased a lot recently. From the top, you can see Tokyo skyscrapers and Sagami Bay far away, and Mt. Fuji and neighboring mountains.
Mt. Takao Official Website.
The sunlight filtered through the autumn leaves giving the narrow trails and woods a soft golden glow. Maple leaves were so beautiful that day.
＊１Quidditch Through the Ages by J.K.Rowling
＊2 「天狗はどこから来たか？」 by Takuya Sugihara
Related post: Animals, ghosts and Yōkai depicted in Ukiyo-e