Sunday, November 25, 2012

Mt.Takao -Tengu and autumn leaves

"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. 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.

Quidditch 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


Linda Starr said...

You are getting the most beautiful fall colors, we hardly get any here in Florida due to the warm weather. Your photos are just wonderful.

Scott said...

Amazing foliage..portrayed so nicely. The maples ability to so softly hold and disperse..breathtaking. I like the idea of Shugendo. Shintoism. Mountain worship and animism. Seems to make sense. Free thinking worthy of protection by the tengu. I think I've see them too.

you-wee because said...

What a wonderful play of colours you currently have in Japan, Sapphire! Here in Germany we have a really (unusual) calm and dry November without any autumnal storm. But most of the deciduous trees already lost their leaves, so our German autumn isn't as colourful as yours anymore, altough the sun shines every now and then.

Rouchswalwe said...

When I first met Tengu at 求菩提山, I thought he might be Pinocchio's older brother.

Marie-Josée said...

I thought that we had the most beautiful foliage in Quebec but I must say that what you can admire near Tokyo is quite amazing.

Thank you also for letting us know about the Tengu...

Have a nice week-end

☆sapphire said...


Thank you!! Maple leaves around my house are turning color now but most of them are still green and are not so beautiful as the ones in mountains.


Thank you so much! Oh you've seen one. My daughter has always insisted that she saw a great tengu with his fan. Where do you think she saw him? In my place in Kansai...It belongs to her subjective truth, I think.


Thank you so much!! I think it is much warmer in autumn and winter here than in your country. Usually, the best time for viewing maple leaves in cities is early December.


WOW! I remember the kappa you once saw in Japan. I didn't know you'd seen Tengu too. 求菩提山(Kubote-zan? right?) is also famous for the Shugendo. I suppose there are many yamabushi(山伏)on the mountain. The mountain is also famous for dragons or Ryu.
My daughter once saw Tengu in Kobe. According to her, he was very large and looked solemn. Anyway, it belongs to her subjective truth.


Welcome and thank you!! The beautiful autumn leaves in Quebec are well known to us. I wish I could see them! I think the tengu are very interesting beings!!

sharon said...

Interesting...yes I want to go!!..brilliant colors..haha the nose reminds me of

Suze said...

That pink tree looks just like love!

I am a little confused, when you say there have been many sightings of Tengu, what do you mean, exactly?

☆sapphire said...


Thanks for dropping by! Yes. I think Tengu are really interesting!!


Oh I have no idea of what those people actually saw on the mountain but they have insisted that they met or saw tengu. From an animistic point of view, it may not be so strange because Tengu are often thought to be mountain(forest) spirits and to protect their territories (deep forests and mountains). As for the tengu, many interesting studies have been done so far in Japan. Some researchers say that folklorically, some tengu are associated with the deceased ascetics of Shugendo who died on mountains where he'd been doing ascetic practices. Not only Mt. Takao but also many other mountains are said to be inhabited by Tengu in Japan, Anyway, there are many theories on what tengu are.

Suze said...

Well, I had another Tengu sighting on Blogger, last night. A new excellent blog that I just started following -- right after I visited yours and had Tengu on the brain, I went to hers and she had many more images! It was eerie, but deliciously so. I can't help assigning meaning I have yet to parse. Here is her blog:

stardust said...

高尾山の魅力、紅葉が満載です! 最初、よく読まずに写真だけを見て、Mt. Takao から京都の高雄山(高尾山)を思い、ご実家に帰省されていたんだと思いながら、富士山が見える写真で疑問を抱き、もどってみると、”in western Japan” に気づきました。京都の高雄山も天狗伝説で有名ですが、2つの山の関連を調べますと、次の記述がありました。 


haricot said...


haricot said...


☆sapphire said...


Thank you for the tip. I'll read the blog you've followed later. I just came back home so,,,, And I've made a mistake in grammar in my comment....I'm always very careless (sigh).


詳細なコメント、ありがとうございます。Takao はわかりにくですよね。こちらでは、ミシュラン三ツ星の八王子の高尾しか頭に浮かばない方が多いです。関西では、なんといっても神護寺のある高雄ですよね。真言宗の方がどこから来たかといえば、それはもちろん、京都・関西方面からですよね。高野山が本山なのですから。神護寺は、これまで二回行ったことがあります。本音を言えばね、あちらの紅葉のほうが数段上でございます。あそこのはすごい!三尾として有名でしょ? 三尾がまたわかりにくいですね。「尾」がついているのでみんな後ろに「尾」がつくかといえば、そうじゃなくて、「高雄・槇尾・栂尾」で神護寺だけ英雄の雄だから。私、栂尾、高山寺の明恵上人の大ファンなので、あのあたりは大好きです。上人が長く修行されていた神護寺も。あのお寺でかわらけを投げました。なつかしい!八王子城は、このごろ整備されて、石段やら復元されておりまする。


ありがとうございます。ああ、お兄様ご夫妻、八王子にお住まいなんですね。それであればすぐのところですね。うちからもそんなに時間はかからないので、手軽に行ける感じです。ミシュランが恨めしいです。久しぶりに行ったら、ハイキングロードは空いているのですが、ケーブル・リフトで来られる方がすごい数で、お寺や山頂駅あたりは銀座並みに混んでいました。 天狗さん、かわいそうに。静寂を妨げられています。

cosmos said...


Brigitta Huegel said...

Dear Sapphire,
excuse me for commenting so late - but some Tengu had deliberately created trouble on my blog (you might see that on berlinletters). The children's book about the Tengu and Daruma - is it translated? I think I would love it! (Always some Darumas are standing around here - though Son said I shouldn't do them for him: "I like the idea - but imagine: maybe 123 One-eyed Darumas staring at me, haha". Haha - but they helped me a great deal and I'll keep them, the two-eyed vanishing into happiness...
Your photos are as beautiful as always: those wonderful colours! Thank you!

minstrel1209 said...

こんばんは^^* お久しぶりです

そして 天狗さんと聴けば まるで 

貴船の夜は 魑魅魍魎の世界ですょ^^


☆sapphire said...



Dear Britta,

Thank you so much for dropping by! I was thinking of e-mailing you tonight because I have not been able to read your posts at all these days probably due to some Blogger problems. I can reach your blogs but your posts are not displayed properly. Strangely, on clicking and reaching your recent posts, my computer freezes suddenly.
I wonder what has happened. I have been worrying about you. Are you alright? Generally, Tengu are naughty beings. They might have worked mischief.... The picture book on the little tengu has been translated into English. Its title is "Little Daruma and Little Tengu". I read a Japanese one so I have no idea whether the quality of the English translation is good. Click on the link in the post then you'll find the picture book(English version) at Amazon I don't know if the copies are available in Europe though. Really hope everything turn out well. Many hugs!!


お久しぶりです。ずっと更新がなかったので、お忙しいのかしら?まさか、ご病気だなんてことは、とちょっと心配しておりました。そちらのブログのほうへお問い合わせしようかと、考えておりました。あとで早速拝見しますね。はい、こちらの高尾もそれなりに楽しめますよ(笑) 京都の方からご覧になると、あほらしいかもしれませんが(笑)コメントありがとうございます。

walk2write said...

Some other visitor here mentioned Pinocchio, and that's the name that came first to my mind when seeing the long noses on the Tengu. Are the naughtier ones the ones with the longest noses?

Your colors are much more vivid than what we can enjoy here in NW Florida. It's more like what may be seen in New England. When we first moved here, I planted a Japanese maple so that I could have some spring and fall color in my landscape. It has done better than I expected. I think we are on the edge of its southern range.

☆sapphire said...


Thanks for reading this post. I look forward very much to your maple's healthy growth!!

As for the tengu, generally, high-ranking Tengu look like humans while low-ranking Tengu are more like beasts.

There are two typical Tengu; Karasu(crow) Tengu are smaller and have wings and beaked mouths and their faces are like Batman.
In pre-medieval Japan, the word "Tengu" meant this "Bird style" . The most famous statues of this type are Karura(迦楼羅) in Kofukuji Temple(興福寺) in Nara and in Sanjyusangendo(三十三間堂) in Kyoto. I've posted about the Karura in the Kofukuji in 2009(Ashra exhibition post).
Dai Tengu(or O tengu) who are Tengu Kings, are the "Boss Class" Tengu. They have red faces, extremely long noses like Pinocchio, and wear monk(yamabushi:mountain ascetics) clothes.

"Are the naughtier ones the ones with the longest noses?"
I suppose the longest noses belong to Dai Tengu( or O Tengu) who are Tengu Kings. Naughty tengu are usually lower-ranking ones such as bird-type ones and lower human-type ones.

you-wee because said...

Thanks for your translation service, Sapphire! Now "my" favourite sushi restaurant in Tokyo got a name for me. And you were right: it was not a cheap, but a great experience to take the dinner there... ;-)
Next week I'm going to meet three of my Japanese colleagues again - next to colleagues from 26 other countries as well during our annual conference.

Kittie Howard said...

Sapphire, when I saw the glorious photos that awaited, I went to the kitchen, poured a cup of coffee, returned and lingered and lingered. Just when I thought your photos couldn't be any more beautiful, you reached a new height that was sheer heaven. Oh, the colors, the magnificent colors.

And thank you for the deeper history about Tengu. He was everywhere when we lived in Hawaii, but I never had a clear understanding of the differences. Now I understand and have a smile from that lovely information.

Also, I apologize for not visiting in a while. My second novella took more time than I'd thought, but, along the way, there were bumps on life's road. All's straightened out now, thankfully, and I'm back in the groove -- until the next bump, I suppose. Such is life!

☆sapphire said...


Your're welcome! Have a good time at the sushi restaurant, Sukeroku!!


Thanks so much! I've not read your most recent post yet so please don't apologize. So glad to hear that you're writing the second novel!!

Oh I didn't know that Tengu are living in Hawaii too. I wonder if they have long noses or beaked mouths as well. How interesting!! In Japan they usually have a fatsia fan with them. Looking forward very much to the second novel!

Massimo said...

magic as usual, the colours are better than a Poesia ! ciao ciao, well done !

Minoru Saito said...

おはようございます。 こんな美しい高尾山を見るのは初めてです。
 私は視力が悪いのでword varification をクリアーすの事が大変でなかなかコメントを書けませんでした。

Brigitta Huegel said...

Dear Sapphire, thank you for your concern! I am well - and maybe you have seen on berlinletters what the trouble with blogspot was (I still delete old posts). That I took out the post about my father had nothing to do with blogland - it just made me too sad to see his picture there.
At the moment I am deep in a (secret) project - it seems that it might take me 3 years - but I enjoy it, because I have to work out my little grey cells, as Hercule Poirot would say. :-) And it makes my time more valuable for me - though I still will write on (and even translate it for a German blog, because so many of my friends complained that they don't understand what I write). The "Burstingwithhappiness" was more to my taste, but people seem to prefer lighter meals :-) I thank you again that you thought of me - and wish you a beautiful autumn (here it changes to winter now). Britta
PS: The children book is so cute! Though it seems to me the Tengu is nicer than the daruma (the Ds I buy have magic power :-)

Humberto Dib said...

Great blog!
Cheers from Argentina.

Kittie Howard said...

Thank you, thank you, Sapphire. Your support really touched me. You are truly a lovely lady with a big heart. Rings is now in South Africa where Rachel is working her magic. I should have a link to Amazon by Monday, Tuesday at the latest, depending upon how many books are ahead of me in Amazon's chute. I'm really excited!

snowwhite said...


Rurousha said...

Beautiful photos, as always!

I hope you're enjoying your time in your furusato! ^^

☆sapphire said...


Thank you!!


Welcome and thank you!!
帰省していたため、大変ごあいさつが遅くなってしまいました。今後ともよろしくお願い申し上げます。word verification はおっしゃる通り、何が書いてあるのがわかりませんね。あれを載せない方向にしようかと思います。ご指摘ありがとうございます。

Dear Britta

I just came back from Kansai. Thank you so much for your detailed explanations on the situation. I felt relieved and of course I'll try again. Looking forward very much to your (secret) project!! Cheers!!

Humberto Dib

Welcome and thank you so much!!


Your're welcome. I'll do my next post(its topic is about a certain artist(maybe) but I'll introduce your second one as well) after I've gotten the link to Amazon!! Cheers!!


詳細なコメント、ありがとうございます。帰省していたため、大変遅くなりました。天狗さんは面白いですね。確か、杉原 たく哉氏は、その著書の中で、鳥天狗の原型をガルーダにしていたと思います。東大寺の開祖の良弁には天狗にさらわれたという有名なお話がありますね。さらわれた地点は彼の故郷ですが...民俗学の資料としてすごく有名な本があります。知切 光歳氏の「天狗の研究」です。これを読むと、天狗さんはなんせ深~~~い。霊的な面を含めると、天狗は本当にいろいろな見方が可能ですね。天狗ヨーロッパ起源説もけっこう面白いですね。


Thank you so much!!

Cari Jiménez said...

Un post por narices bello, je je... Bss

Cari Jiménez said...

La perfección... rayas la perfección... Bss