the online database of Japanese folkore



Translation: greater tengu (“greater divine dog”)
Alternate names: they usually go by their individual names
Habitat: high, remote mountaintops
Diet: many individuals have preferred foods or strict religious dietary regimens

Appearance: Daitengu are much larger and more imposing than kotengu. They appear in a more human-like form; usually that of a man dressed in the robes of an ascetic monk, with a red face, an incredibly long and phallic nose (the longer the nose, the more powerful the tengu). Large, feathered wings sprout from their backs. Only rarely do they appear in the more primitive avian form of the lesser tengu.

Behavior: Daitengu live solitary lives on remote mountaintops, far removed from humanity. Their lives are spent in thoughtful meditation, intent on perfecting themselves. Daitengu possess greater pride, wisdom, and power than their kotengu cousins, although they can also be just as savage and unpredictable. This savagery combined with intelligence makes daitengu more dangerous. In fact, natural disasters and other great catastrophes are sometimes attributed to the wrath of a powerful daitengu. However, daitengu also possess more self-restraint; there are stories of daitengu giving aid to worthy humans.

Interactions: While kotengu terrorize people whenever they could, over the centuries daitengu were viewed less as the enemy of mankind and more as a race of god-like sages living deep in the mountains. Daitengu became closely connected with the ascetic mountain religion of Shugendō. The mountain mystics grew close to the tengu, seeking their wisdom and worshiping them as divine beings. It is perhaps through this mystic religion that humankind was eventually able to earn the respect of the tengu. Brave men ventured into the unknown wilds in hopes of gaining some of the tengu’s wisdom. Occasionally, tengu would teach secrets and impart magical knowledge to the worthiest of these men. One of Japan’s most famous warriors, Minamoto no Yoshitsune, is said to have learned swordsmanship from the tengu king Sōjōbō.

Alphabetical list of yōkai