Friday, December 10, 2010

Tengu masks of Kunisaki


The oldest type of Tengu had a face that was bird-like, with a beak. Over time this became a long nose, and was probably incorporating elements of Sarutahiko, so long-nosed, red faced masks are sometimes called tengu, sometimes Sarutahiko.


The Tengu became associated with yamabushi, the ascetic monks of Shugendo. If the mask is wearing a small black cap. then I would call it a Tengu. Without a cap it might be a tengu, it might be Sarutahiko.


All of these masks were in shrines in the Kunisaki Peninsular in northern Kyushu.


The Sarutahiko mask will often be found paired with a round-faced female mask and its phallic/fertility association is clearer. The female is Uzume, Sarutahiko's wife.


More tengu masks, including some of mine, can be found here


  1. oohh, you know I've always been a little confused as to why Sarutahiko-sama and Tengu look so much alike. I wonder what the story is behind the molding of characteristics-- is it really just two names for the same kami?? I thought they had different personalities...hmmmm...

  2. Both Tengu and Sarutahiko have different attributes at different times and different places.... homogenity is a 20th Century creation....