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Symmetrical Sliding Doors Lure Natural Light

KANAGAWA – This methodical view was taken from inside the main building of Daiyuzan Saijoji temple in Kanagawa Prefecture. When the sliding doors are open, you can peep outward to catch fragments of green in the garden.

This temple is known for its connection to a particular tengu, Japan’s legendary long-nosed goblins. These mythological creatures are usually described as wearing the clothes of a mountain priest, with a red face and an extremely long nose. Tengus are believed to have wings, allowing them to fly. Tengus are not characterized as good guys in these legends; they were said to sometimes lure people into harm’s way, or violently defend their territory. If this is true, then why are such bad guys the subject of worship here?

Here is the story: a monk in the medieval period (14th-15th centuries) planned to build this temple. From a distant land, his disciple heard the news and flew like a bird to help his master. The disciple had manifested as a tengu goblin, and he used his magical strength to flatten the valley for the construction of the temple. After using such great strength to help complete the temple for his master, the disciple remained there until his master’s death, and which point he transformed again into a tengu soared to heaven. Since then, a tengu goblin has been the guardian of this temple.

That is why you’ll find the temple grounds lined with geta, wooden clogs. Tengus are said to have worn these traditional shoes. The size and shape of the examples on display here vary, but they all share their characteristic high ‘teeth’, which are stilt-like protrusions under the flat sole. It would obviously be uncomfortable for a human to walk in these special clogs. But for a tengu things may be different. He doesn’t have to walk or run. He can fly!

Photo by Hiroki Watanabe; Text by Motomi Takahashi