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TRANSLATION: heavenly woman, celestial woman
HABITAT: Tendō, the realm of heaven in Buddhist cosmology
DIET: as a human

APPEARANCE: Tennyo are extraordinarily beautiful creatures who resemble human women. Aside from their unparalleled grace and elegance, and supernaturally attractive faces and figures, there is little way to differentiate them from ordinary women. They wear beautiful gowns called hagoromo (literally “feather cloth”), which allow them to fly.

BEHAVIOR: Tennyo are servants and courtesans for the emperor of heaven, and companions of buddhas and bodhisattvas. They sing, dance, play music, recite poetry, and do much of the same things as their earthly counterparts in human imperial courts; though they do them all with more grace, refinement, and beauty. They aid and entertain the other inhabitants of heaven, and they even occasionally fly down to earth to visit.

ORIGIN: Tennyo are a female-only subgroup of tennin, one of many celestial races native to Tendō. They are based on the Indian apsaras, celestial nymphs from Hindu and Buddhist mythology. They were brought to China from India along with Buddhism, where they developed into the tennyo we know today. The Chinese Buddhist tennyo was later brought over to Japan.

LEGENDS: Tennyo are a popular subject of folklore throughout all of Japan. Legends often involve love stories and marriage between tennyo and human men. The most famous story is the Noh play Hagoromo.

Long ago, in what is today Shizuoka, a fisherman named Hakuryō was walking along the pine-covered beaches of the Miho peninsula. It was a beautiful spring morning, and Hakuryō stopped for a moment to admire the beautiful white sand, the sparkling waves, the fluffy clouds, and the fishing ships on the bay. A pleasant fragrance filled the air, and it seemed that ethereal music was dancing on the winds. Something caught his eye; draped over a nearby pine branch was a robe of the most splendid fabric he had ever seen. It was made of a soft, feathery material, and was woven in fantastic colors, so he decided to take it home and keep it as a family heirloom.

Just as Hakuryō was preparing to leave, a young woman of breathtaking beauty appeared in the nude before him. She had flowers in her hair, and smelled just as beautiful as she looked. She said that he was holding her hagoromo robe, and asked him to return it. Hakuryō realized that this beautiful maiden was a tennyo. He refused to return to robe, saying it would bring good luck and fortune to his village.

The woman grew sad, and lamented that she would not be able to fly home to heaven without her robe. She dropped to her knees and cried, her tears falling like beautiful pearls into the sand. The flowers in her hair wilted. She looked up at the clouds above, and heard a flock of geese flying by, which only saddened her more as they reminded her of the celestial karyōbinga birds back home in heaven.

Hakuryō was moved by the beautiful maiden’s sadness. He told her that he would return her robe, but first she must perform a celestial dance for him. She agreed to perform the dance, but told Hakuryō that she needed her hagoromo to perform the dance. Hakuryō refused to return the robe. He thought she would just fly off to heaven without performing for him. The tennyo replied to him that deception was a part of his world, not hers, and that her kind do not lie. Hakuryō  felt shame, and returned the dress to her.

The tennyo donned her hagoromo and performed the dance of the Palace of the Moon. She was accompanied by celestial music, flutes, koto, and the wind in the pines. The moon shown through the trees and sweet fragrances filled the air. The waves grew calm and peaceful. Her long sleeves danced upon the wind, and she danced in sheer joy. As she danced, she slowly floated up into the sky. She flew over the beach, higher and higher, above the pines, through the clouds, and beyond the top of Mt. Fuji. She disappeared into the mists of heaven.



TRANSLATION: wild quilt
ALTERNATE NAMES: tobikura (flying warehouse)
HABITAT: forests and mountains
DIET: primarily blood; also fire, nuts, fruit and berries

APPEARANCE: A bat which lives to a very old age develops magical powers and changes into a yokai known as a nobusuma. They look almost identical to musasabi, or Japanese giant flying squirrels, although they are much more dangerous.

BEHAVIOR: Nobusuma eat nuts, fruit, and berries, but also feed on fire, and by sucking blood from humans and small animals (such as cats). They attack travelers walking the roads at night. They swoop down from the trees onto the faces of their unsuspecting victims, latch on, and begin sucking blood. When they do not need to feed, they simply swoop down and blow out lanterns and torches, flying back up into the night sky with a creepy cry that goes, “gaa gaa!”

ORIGIN: While nobusuma are born from long-lived bats, the transformation does not stop there. Once a nobusuma reaches a very old age, it transforms again, either into a yamachichi or a momonjii.

This yokai should not be confused with the nobusuma (野襖) from Kochi prefecture, whose name is pronounced the same but is actually a variety of a different yokai called nurikabe.



HABITAT: mountains and forests
DIET: blood

APPEARANCE: The nodeppō is an animal yokai which lives in northern Japan, deep in forested mountain valleys. Nodeppō resemble flying squirrels, but are actually born from an animal called a mami, which resembles a badger. When a mami reaches a very old age, it transforms into a nodeppō.

BEHAVIOR: Nodeppō very closely resembles nobusuma in appearance and behavior. They swoop down from trees at night, extinguishing flames. They latch on to humans’ faces, smothering them and sucking out their blood, and in many places they are considered to be the same creature.

While both nodeppō and nobusuma like to smother people’s faces and blind them with their webbed arms and legs, the feature which most distinguishes the nodeppō from the nobusuma is also its namesake: the ability to shoot bats out of its mouth, like bullets from a gun. The nodeppō is able to spit a stream of bats out of its mouth towards the faces of its victims, blinding them in a cloud of angry bats.