Tokyobling's Blog

Tengu at Kenchoji

Posted in Japanese Traditions, Places by tokyobling on July 9, 2010

One of the most popular and well know mythological creatures in Japan is the tengu, or 天狗 in Japanese characters. Literally meaning “heavenly dogs”, there is nothing much dog like about the creature itself these days. Over the years the tengu has evolved to become a sort of guardian spirits of the wild spaces and mountains around Japan. Not evil, but not very friendly either. Wikipedia has an excellent article on tengu, shock full of information, tales and pictures.

I saw these wonderful tengu statues at the inner temple area behind Kenchoji in Kamakura (which you might remember from this earlier post), where they guard the final path up to the shinto shrine (yes, the two religions have a very complicated relationship here in Japan…) of Hansobo (半僧坊). Aren’t they awesome? How cool would it be if these creatures actually descended from the mountain top to greet you?

The climb up to this shrine can be pretty tough, so make sure you have enough water and stamina to last you all the way. The last picture shows you how far you have walked from the temple. The small green-grey box in the middle of the photo is Kenchoji temple. Far, isn’t it? If you collect shuin, don’t forget your shuincho, and if you enjoy looking at cool ema (the pictured votive tablets where you write your prayers and wishes to be hung at shrines) they have a pretty good one with a tengu dressed in blue.

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5 Responses

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  1. Julie said, on July 9, 2010 at 2:39 pm

    Wow! Awesome post! I LOVE how the Tengu statues are arranged… so lifelike! I thought Tengu had long noses. I’ve never seen them look like this before. How interesting. I wanna visit this hidden temple!


  2. pk1154 said, on July 10, 2010 at 1:25 pm

    These could be called karasu-tengu (crow tengu). Beaked tengu are an older image than long-nosed tengu.

    I’ve read that they may have some connection to the Hindu god Garuda by way of Buddhism. Garuda is depicted as a human with the beak and wings of a kite (or perhaps an eagle, which would be more size-appropriate).


    • tokyobling said, on July 12, 2010 at 4:29 am

      Garuda! My favorite little piece of hindu mythology! At a place I used to live we had a temple with a small naga statue at the entrance, a favorite pastime of mine was to take friends on a walk past that statue in the middle of the night, every single one regardless of age or gender freaked out when they noticed it! haha…


  3. Montreal Girl said, on July 12, 2010 at 11:44 pm

    Just wanted to say you do an absolutely marvellous job at photographing and portraying Japan’s diversity and unique features. A truly great blog. Thanks for hours of delightful surprises and exploration over the last several months!


    • tokyobling said, on July 13, 2010 at 2:51 am

      Thank you Montreal Girl! Comments like your make it all worthwhile. I have been very busy at my day job these last few months and finding the time to write this blog have been getting harder and harder. I’ll keep doing my best! Thanks!


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