Japanese Masks: Tengu
Tengu are some of the oldest mythological “deities” in Japan. They inhabit trees, are good swordsmen, and are fond of playing tricks on human beings. Being part bird and part man, they have wings and large noses or “beaks” . Nowadays, long-nose Tengu find their way into many local Matsuri festivals, as a phallic symbol indicative of fertility and good harvest.
The most beloved story relating to the red-faced Tengu is that of Yoshitsune. When the young child Yoshitsune’s life was spared by the Taira, (the clan who defeated Yoshitsune’s clan, the Minamoto) he was sent away to be raised by monks in a monastery. At night in the woods he secretly practiced the sword, hoping to train himself in its use and eventually avenge his family. The local Head Tengu watched him every night and took pity on him, befriending him and taking up his cause, by superbly training him in the sword, in strategy, and in tactics. Because of his supernatural training in the martial arts, and his desire to avenge his family, he became famous and beloved for his exploits in battle.
8″ X 7″