A Tengu and a Buddhist monk

The Tengu is a crow-like yokai that is popular in Japanese folklore. They are patrons of martial arts and skilled warriors, but they are also known for their mischief and trickery. They have the ability to change shape, to speak without moving their mouths, to appear in dreams at will, and to move instantly from one place to another without having to use their wings.

Types of TenguEdit

Tengu folklore has been found in both Buddhist and Shinto mythology, and the Tengu are often portrayed a bit differently depending on the text and the era the information originated from. There are a few different types of Tengu:

Karasu TenguEdit

Called minor tengu, crow tengu, or Kotengu, these are the oldest form of the crow-goblins. They were originally portrayed as evil, tree dwelling beings with the bodies of men, beaked faces, small heads heavy claws and feathered wings. They were known to start fires, and to rip apart people who intentionally harmed the forest. They were also known to abduct adults and children. On occasion they would later release the captive, who then suffered a state of dementia known as Tengu Kakushi, literally "hidden by a Tengu." They serve the Daitengu, and are believed by some groups to generally be spirits of ignorant people being punished for excessive pride.

Kurama TenguEdit

These Tengu specifically inhabit Mt. Kurama, north of Kyoto. Among those living in this area is Sōjōbō, the ancient and white-haired King of the Tengu, who befriended and taught the hero Minamoto Yoshitsue.


The Daitengu, also called major Tengu or Yamabushi Tengu, are commonly portrayed as a tall man with either a long or beaked nose, red face, and dressed as a priest or hermit. They generally carry a small hat that doubles as a drinking cup, a magic fan, and a staff or a small mallet. They may wear wooden sandals, and they may or may not have wings. Regardless of having wings or not, they still fly, and their fans can create great windstorms

This much newer version of the Tengu are considered more to be spirits of protection. It has the ability to change its shape, but generally prefers the form of a wandering and barefooted old monk or hermit with a long nose. They are, in this way, associated with tanuki and the oinari, both of whom are known to take human form.

Daitengu are thought by some to be the souls of knowledgeable men, often fallen monks or warriors. Like the Karasu Tengu they were Buddhists that couldn't go to hell, but were not good enough to go to heaven.

In the work Tengu Meigikō the Daitengu are ranked, listed alongside the places they are thought to call home:

  • Sōjōbō (Mount Kurama)
  • Tarōbō (Mount Atago)
  • Jirōbō (Hira Mountains)
  • Sanjakubō (Mount Akiba)
  • Ryūhōbō (Mount Kōmyō)
  • Buzenbō (Mount Hiko)
  • Hōkibō (Mount Daisen)
  • Myōgibō (Mount Ueno)
  • Sankibō (Itsukushima)
  • Zenkibō (Mount Ōmine)
  • Kōtenbō (Katsuragi)
  • Tsukuba-hōin (Hitachi Province)
  • Daranibō (Mount Fuji)
  • Naigubu (Mount Takao)
  • Sagamibō (Shiramine)
  • Saburō (Mount Iizuna)
  • Ajari (Higo Province)


Coming soon

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