In the mysterious and elusive world of Japanese Yōkai figures, few creatures are as well known, feared and revered as the Tengu.
Tengu (天狗, "Heavenly dog" or "Sky Dog") is a mythical creature from Japanese Folklore and a Yokai from the class of Obake and Bakemono. The Tengu are represented with different forms in Japanese mythology such as a human, a dog, a bird or even a goblin. The most distinctive aspect of the Tengu is their solid red face with a very long nose.
Let's further learn together what is a Tengu and all that there is to know behind this famous character of the Japanese mythology:
What does Tengu mean?
The word Tengu means literally Sky Dog and refers to a mythical Japanese creature, typically birdlike and having a long nose.
The term Tengu, written 天狗 is a compound word made of two Kanjis; the kanji 天 meaning Heavens or Sky and the Kanji 狗 meaning dog. Tengu is derived from the chinese celestial dog, the Tiangou.
The word Tengu first appeared in the year 637 when a Japanese priest used this term to explain the phenomenon of a meteor to an emperor, to allay his fears that it was an omen of war and misfortune.
However, Chinese mythology speaks of "celestial foxes" that live in the mountains and possess powers eerily similar to those of the Tengu. It is possible that a slight mistranslation or confusion between the two terms occurred throughout history, giving us the name "heavenly dog" for the Japanese yōkai that were conceptualized from the "heavenly fox" of Chinese mythology.
The exact abilities of the different types of Tengu, as well as their role among the Japanese people, have changed greatly over time. The transformation of the Tengu from the beings described in ancient legends to the beings we know today gives insight into the mentality and superstitious tendencies of the Japanese people over the centuries.
In the few hundred years since the word Tengu first appeared, we see beings depicted as devious yokai, responsible for various strange and mischievous acts that invariably occur in or near mountainous areas.
In the early Middle Ages, the history of the Tengu began to change, as indicated by the legends and anecdotes compiled in the Konjaku Monogatari Shū (a Japanese collection of over one thousand tales) and elsewhere. They became enemies of Buddhism, corrupting and kidnapping monks and otherwise interfering with the growing influence of Pure Land Buddhism in Japan.
From the dawn of the 11th century, the legends concerning Tengu took an interesting turn, becoming deeply intertwined with the growing influence of various Buddhist sects.
The Tengu were known to kidnap, tempt and deceive devout monks into following them or losing their faith, thus losing their chance of enlightenment. It is said that the Tengu used various methods to torment Buddhists, ranging from burning their temples to implanting devious thoughts of greed or lust in their heads, to training priests deep in the forests or mountains.
Tengu therefore played a central role in the scrolls and are described in them as Makai (Demon world) which was the medieval term used for Tengu-dō, or the realm that fallen humans (especially fallen religious men) were supposed to inhabit.
The Tengu Zōshi tells an illustrated story of monks and priests who were charged with upholding royal law and their conflict with a Daijō Hō (a type of Japanese emperor) who sought admission into their ranks. These monks seem to have refused the emperor's request and so it is alleged that they "became Tengu because they were indulgent and overly arrogant".
These monks are said to have become proud of their own temples and teachings, fighting among themselves for fame and fortune, and completely forgetting their religious activities. The rejected emperor then used these allegations to justify a violent withdrawal of the monks who had become Tengu from their esteemed positions and luxurious temple dwellings.
The Tengu Zōshi concludes by stating that these Tengu, those monks and politicians who have fallen into the Demon Realm because of all their misdeeds, will be able to return and even gain entry into Heavens, providing that they unite and change their ways of thinking. Although other sources have stated that there is no way out of the realm of Tengu-dō, the author makes a notable exception in this story; another indication that Tengu can be used to play a discursive role and be used to evoke problems within Japanese society and religion.
However, while the Buddhists of Japan were clearly not followers of Tengu, which appear primarily for the purpose of disrupting Buddhist teaching, another group was quite closely related to them: the Yamabushi.
Yamabushi, or "those who prostrate themselves in the mountains," are a group of wandering ascetics who live deep in the mountains and practice the mystical art of Shugendō.
Originating in the 7th or 8th century and combining elements of Shintoism with animism, mountain worship, shamanic practices, and other pre-Buddhist belief systems, Yamabushi are said to have the ability to exorcise the Tengu and otherwise control them.
Shugendō was considered a positive mystical force, derived from the Yamabushi's years of physical and spiritual training to overcome the power the Tengu and other evil spirits, and fighting the darker forms of magic.
These Yamabushi were known to be wanderers, traveling between various sacred mountains and temples where they practiced their mystical arts. Not being celibate, they were known to marry female "shamanesses" who accompanied them on their pilgrimages and supplemented their powers by entering trance and transmitting the will of the Tengu or spirit, which the Yamabushi would then exorcise or bring under their control using Shugendō.
Despite their isolated existence as mountain ascetics, the Yamabushi were known to have semi-frequent contact with nearby villagers such as conducting trials in which aspiring samurai could prove themselves, puberty rites to bring youth to adulthood, and other Shinto austerities within their sacred mountain grounds.
In addition to these ordeals, Shugendō practitioners were known to perform a variety of functions in medieval Japanese society, as they traveled from shrine to shrine, performing everything from initiations to prayers to the aforementioned exorcisms, all the while evangelizing their beliefs to promote their art, in which the Tengu played a central role.
Stories of the Yamabushi and their power over the Tengu had a profound effect not only on the beliefs of the people who encountered them, but also on the overall representation of Tengu at that time. Beginning in the 13th century, the "second golden age of Tengu," Tengu were increasingly depicted in Yamabushi garb, attesting to their connection to Shugendō and also to their ability to occasionally remove a deviant Yamabushi.
Until the late 1500s, such depictions of Tengu dressed in Yamabushi, but still avian, abounded in folk art and lore. It was not until the Edo period that the Ōtengu was depicted as the long-nosed, red-faced, winged being it is known as today.
It was also during this time that the Kōtengu began to be secretly worshipped in some Shinto temples and shrines, particularly those surrounding Mount Atago and other sacred mountain sites. This is due in part to Yamabushi powers over the Tengu, which some say allowed them to force evil Tengu to take revenge on their enemies and to grant requests to bring them bad luck. Although the bird-like Tengu were enslaved to their red-faced peers, they were revered in some Shinto traditions as the protectors of forests and mountains.
It is clear that the Tengu were deeply connected to Japan's nascent religious practices, interacting in some way with almost every type of religious practice to flourish in the nation. Whether they were the disruptive and ravenous enemies of the Buddhist faith, they also were the revered forest and mountain Kami in some Shinto shrines, or the exorcised servants and mountain dwellers who propelled Shugendō practitioners to fame in the Middle Ages.
Finally, Tengu were a popular figure in Japanese religion and folklore for many centuries, and thus played an important role in shaping Japanese cultural practices and society at large.
How are Tengu born?
About their existence, Tengu are from a class of Yokai called Obake and Bakemono which are creatures that possess the power of Shapeshifting, which means that they are able to change their appearance into humans or other animals.
Based on this information, some legends say that Tengu can be born from two different ways:
1. Tengu come from birds and wild beasts
After living over one hundreds years, birds get the power to change their appearance and start to grow hands from their wings and stand on the flesh that grew from their front legs, while the front legs of other beasts grow wings and after a while they straighten up and change their shape to look like humans. These were the original Tengu, the ones that looked more like birds than humans.
2. Tengu are born from undergone demonic transformations in humans
This latter variant fits well with the main discourse of the Middle Ages, which said that the Tengu of Mount Atago (Tarōbō), among other groups, were led by emperors, political figures and prominent monks who had been transformed into Tengu because of their evil actions.
Many ancient tales focus on humans who either deceive the Tengu to satisfy one of their desires or are deceived themselves. Some elements of folklore and some references in Heian literature, such as the Genji tale, also attribute strange laughter or big booms such as the felling of trees to the malice of the Tengu.
What does a Tengu look like?
The body of a Tengu is the main element to qualify its class and power. Indeed, the Tengu is a Yokai who can derive from several animals like the dog or some types of birds after celebrating its 100th birthday.
Therefore, the more a Tengu is able to perfect a human form, the more it means that he is old and powerful.
Contrary to what one might think, Tengu are not gigantic creatures and are said to height on average 180 to 240cm (~6 to 8 feet).
Tengu face is the most iconic characteristic of this type of Yokai. Indeed, most of the Tengu representations in Japanese Folklore depict Tengu having a red face with an abnormally long nose.
However, some Tengu who aren't still able to complete the transformation of their body into human can still have a common bird face instead.
Derived from many bird species, the Tengu have functional wings that they keep even when they transform into humans and are therefore able to fly long distances.
When the Tengu transforms into a human, they usually appear dressed in the traditional Yamabushi outfit including many elements such as a Tokin, a Suzukake, a Yui-gesa and a Kongo-zuè.
The Tengu were originally extremely dangerous demons and enemies of Buddhism. Over the centuries, their behavior changed from spirits of the damned to active defenders of Dharma, inflicting their punishments on vain and arrogant samurai warriors.
Indeed, Tengu dislike braggarts, and those who corrupt the Dharma (Buddhist Law).
According to the Japanese mythology literature, there are 3 different types of Tengu; the Hanataka Tengu (with a long and red. nose), the Karasu Tengu (the crow Tengu which has a bird-like face with a long beak) and the Konoha Tengu.
1) Hanataka Tengu
Hanataka Tengu (also called Ōtengu ou Daitengu) are the best known and most represented Tengu type in Japanese mythology.
Hanataka Tengu appear essentially with a basic human form, except for some strange ethereal features that betray their lack of true humanity such as a bright red face and an abnormally long nose.
These Tengu are said to dwell deep in Japanese mountainous regions and possess a range of superhuman powers, such as wings that give them the power to fly and powerful feather fans that they can use to stir up high winds and summon storms.
In some stories, these magical fans are able to shrink and grow other people's noses. These Tengu are responsible for kamikakushi or child abductions, are also known for their pride and warlike tendencies, known to have waged war and committed violent acts.
The Hanataka Tengu are masters of swordsmanship and martial arts, and usually assume the appearance of Yamabushi when they kidnap people or appear in public. This connection between Tengu and Yamabushi seems to have originated in the Middle Ages due to the ferocity of Yamabushi practitioners returning from long periods of solitude in the mountains.
2) Karasu Tengu
This second type of Tengu named Karasu Tengu (烏天狗, lit. Crow Tengu)
also goes by several other names such as KoTengu (小天狗, lit. Divine Dog) or Shōtengu which means The little Tengu.
This type of Tengu may appear in the form of a raven (karasu), a black kite (tobi), or sometimes other dark-colored birds such as crows. In keeping with its appearance, and unlike its Ōtengu counterpart, the Kotengu has more animal-like tendencies: carnivorous and ferocious, yet easy for humans to evade or trick.
Karasu Tengu are the type of Tengu that appeared first in the literature as references to it date back since ancient times, whereas accounts of its anthropomorphic counterpart only date back to shortly before the beginning of the Edo period.
For this and other reasons, such as their known protection of mountain life/nature and their relative harmlessness in general, these Tengu are often worshipped in Shinto temples and shrines, especially those found in more mountainous areas.
3) Konoha Tengu
Konoha Tengu is the third type of Tengu that is very little represented in the Japanese folklore. Indeed, le Konoha-Tengu is a low-ranking Tengu that have not yet accumulated much supernatural power and is usually depicted in their primal and mostly avian form.
Tengu are said to be able control environmental manifestations such as rain, wind, and thunder. They can cause raging storms when they are angry and can make whirlwinds that carry people up into the air.
Tengu also own supernatural powers include shapeshifting into human or animal forms, speaking to humans without moving their mouth, moving instantly from place to place without using their wings (teleportation), and the sorcery of appearing uninvited in the dreams of the living.
Moreover, Tengu are skilled warriors and mischief maker, especially prone to playing tricks on arrogant and vainglorious Buddhist priests, and to punishing those who willfully misuse knowledge and authority to gain fame or position.
Kamikakushi, kidnapped by a Tengu
Kamikakushi (神隠し, lit. "hidden by Kami") is the most common manifestation of a Tengu which occurs when an adult or child disappears without any other explanation. In the past, this type of kidnapping was systematically assigned to Tengu who would have taken the person to distant lands for a sinister purpose.
Many stories about these disappearances are still very popular today, such as that of the wife of an important man who disappeared for several days until found later in a mountain cave or that of a man who originally went to Kyoto and was found naked in the streets of Asakusa.
Whether these stories can be considered pure superstition or not, we find that folklore myths concerning the Tengu was extremely popular, not only to explain the unexplainable (as is often the case with mythology around the world), but also to keep people in line.
Moreover, these legends were used to remind people to watch their children and also to warn those children against certain activities, for by threatening that the Tengu would take revenge on "unruly boys", parents could keep their children in line.
Other legends, especially those born in the Middle Ages, also portrayed the Tengu as fallen humans, beings more malicious than insane and with the propensity to corrupt and deprave emperors and honest monks, were used to enforce certain codes of conduct and to criticize those who had strayed from the straight and narrow.
Most Famous Tengu in Japanese Mythology
As Tengu stories evolved into specific names and stories, there seemed to be an irresistible urge to rank which Tengu were the best or the most appreciated.
According to the philosopher Hayashi Razan, the three most famous Tengu were definitely:
- Soujoubou Kurama (Kyoto)
- Taroubou Atago (Kyoto)
- Jiroubou Hira
Sometimes called the king of Tengu, Soujoubou of Kurama is definitely the most important Tengu of all times. Indeed, legends say that he was the Tengu who taught Minamoto no Yoshitsune the art of swordsmanship. There is also a legend that the founder of Aikido, Morihei Ueshiba, learned the martial arts from him.
Kurama Tengu representation
Tengu Geijutsuron (天狗芸術論てんぐげいじゅつろん, lit. Demon's Sermon on Martial Arts) is a text written by Issai Chozanshi, an 18th century samurai, who tells the story of a swordsman who discusses with a Tengu from Mount Kuruma about the philosophy of martial arts. Furthermore, it also exists Tengu Meigikou, a list of the 17 great Tengu ranked in the 18th century.
Here is a list of others famous Tengu figures:
- Atagoya Taroubou (愛宕山太郎坊あたごやたろうぼう) from Kyoto: This Tengu protects the Atago shrine, which is dedicated to the deity Izanagi. He was assigned to this task by Buddha about 3,000 years ago and is considered the representative of all other Tengu in Japan. He was apparently nameless or his name was not known for much of this period. The name is first mentioned after a great fire in Kyoto in 1177 which people believed he caused, and which was called "taroushoubou 太郎焼亡たろうしょうぼう". (The fire of Tarou).
Kuramayama Soujoubou (鞍馬山僧正坊くらまやまそうじょうぼう) from Kyoto: This is our old friend Soujoubou, king of Tengu, mentioned above.
Hirasan Jiroubou 比良山治朗坊ひらさんじろうぼう - Shiga : This Tengu originally resided on Mt. Hiei and was supposed to be as strong as Taroubou, but when powerful monks moved in, he got up and moved to Mt. He appears in some violent tales in the late Heian period, doing things like attacking a dragon, and catching a monk and throwing him into a cave where a dragon lived.
- Izuna Saburou (飯綱三郎いずなさぶろう) from Nagano: It is said that this Tengu has more apprentices than the "Fujitarou" of Mount Fuji. And this is not a surprise, since it is attributed useful miracles. For example, when all of Japan suffered from a bad harvest, he saved many lives by distributing sand from the top of Izuna Mountain called "iizuna 飯砂いいずな a kind of Tengu manna similar to brown rice. Saburou Tengu is also known as Izuna Gongen. An interesting and confusing combination of Buddhism and Shintoism, Izuna Gongen and Akiba Gongen (Sanjakubou, Mt. Akiba) are deities represented as Tengu riding a white fox. Or maybe they are the same deities - there are different theories. But a Tengu riding a white fox is incredibly awesome, who cares about the details?
- Sagami Ooyamahoukibou (相模大山伯耆坊さがみおおやまほうきぼう) from Kanagawa: Another Tengu who did not stay true to his original mountain, Ooyamahoukibou, originally lived in Houki Daisen Mountain in Tottori. The original Tengu of Soushu Ooyama Mountain was Sagamibou. But Sagamibou had to move to Shiromine in Kagawa on Shikoku Island to comfort the spirit of Emperor Suutokujoukou, so Ooyamahoukibou settled down as the successor of the post.
- Hikozan Buzenbou (彦山豊前坊ひこざんぶぜんぼう) from Fukuoka: He is known as the general manager of Kyushu Tengu. He keeps track of who is bad and who is good, and he will send one of his Tengu employees to beat up a person for being snobbish and greedy. But if you worship the Tengu yokai well, they will come together and make your dreams come true.
- Oomine Zenki (大峰前鬼おおみねぜんき) from Nara: Zenki and Goki were a married couple of oni (demons) who originally did your usual evil demon stuff. But they reformed when En no Ozuno, the founder of Shugendou, hid one of their children in an iron pot. From there, they understood the sadness of the parents whose children they had killed. From that moment on, they protected En no Ozuno, and Zenki later became a Tengu.
- Shiramine Sagamibou 白峰相模坊しらみねさがみぼう from Kagawa: We have already heard about Sagamibou in the story of Tengu number 5 - he is the one who moved to Kagawa on the island of Shikoku to comfort the spirit of emperor Suutokujoukou for eternity. The emperor died after eight years of exile on Shikoku, always wishing to return to Kyoto.
Moreover, if you have the chance to go to Tokyo, you must visit the Mt. Takao Tengu, as it is the easiest to visit and which is a day of travel from central Tokyo. The consecrated god is Izuna Daigongen, which combines elements of five deities:
- Fudo Myo-o, Karuraten (Garuda, a divine bird),
- Dakiniten (a demon who feeds on human hearts),
- Kangiten (a fertility deity with an elephant head) and
- Benzaiten (the deity of water, music and victory in battle).
Statues of two Tengu, one of each type, stand in front of the hall of Izuna Gongen-do.
Tengu in Japanese Culture
Because of the important and prominent roles that Tengu have played in Japanese religion and history, it is not surprising that Tengu have influenced other aspects of Japanese life and culture. One area in which Tengu's influence is particularly notable is in the performing arts.
Tengu have been linked to folklore or performing arts since countless centuries. The Taiheiki, a Japanese epic written in the fourteenth century, tells of Tengu in Yamabushi costume "singing and dancing with extraordinary excellence" in a royal palace, before suddenly disappearing with only a few muddy birdlike footprints.
The Tengu Zōshi says that during the royal and religious upheavals of the twelfth century, people were warned to avoid watching and seeing performances so as not to fall for the Tengu's trickery. The scroll goes on to announce that a number of important men, including the emperors Go-Shirakawa and Go-Tobu, were so preoccupied with the performing arts and particular artists and dancers that they respectively started wars and fell into Tengudō (the real of the Tengu) as a result.
Minamoto no Yoshitsune learning the art of the Katana from Tengu Souboujou
In addition to their role in the traditional Japanese performing arts, the Tengu were also renowned for their mastery of the sword and martial arts. One particular legend tells of the samurai leader Minamoto no Yoshitsune learning to master his katana from the Tengu Souboujou, and then using these skills to conquer half of Japan and bring it under the rule of his brother.
In addition to their swordsmanship, Tengu played another role in Japanese wartime culture: beings capable of performing miracles on the battlefield and enabling soldiers to dodge bullets when properly worshipped.
Once the violence of the Middle Ages gave way to the artistic and intellectual sophistication of the Edo period, the appearance and nature of Tengu changed accordingly. The modern representation of Tengu: a winged humanoid creature with a fan, a long nose and a red face, first appears in the art and customs of the Edo period.
Many theories claim that the redefined appearance of the Tengu is derived from the Garuda stage masks used in shows and theatrical performances of the period. This representation has persisted and, to this day, Tengu masks can be found in a variety of matsuri or "festivals" throughout Japan, and as elements in many dances and theatrical performances to this day.
Not only the appearance, but also the general nature of Tengu has changed over time. Although they have always been portrayed with a touch of humor and a simplicity that is sometimes easy to deceive, Tengu were mainly considered as. evil beings: Creatures that abducted children, lured pious Buddhist men, caused powerful thunderstorms, were the subject of exorcism and magic rituals, and generally terrified villagers with strange noises at night.
But over the years, the Tengu developed a more nuanced nature, capable of good deeds and seen as guardians of the forest or even a kami (Japanese god), while committing a number of mischievous acts.
In addition to the shrines on the mountains where the Tengu reside, there are Japanese festivals that feature them. Here are some things to consider on your next trip to Japan.
The popular Shimokitazawa district in Tokyo holds a Tengu festival every year. Shimokita Tengu Matsuri (しもきた天狗まつり てんぐ ) includes a Tengu parade and takes place during the Setsubun winter vacation. It is based at Shinryuji Temple, not far from Shimokitazawa Station, where legend says that the guardian deity Doryosatta became a Tengu to protect this temple.
There is a Mt. Tengu in Otaru. With such a name, there is of course a Tengu festival. Otaru's Mt. Tengu festival is considered one of the three most beautiful night sights in Hokkaido (places of such beauty are another thing that Japanese people have been touring for a very long time). Don't get too excited about seeing the real Tengu on Mt. Tengu, because there are three main theories about why it's named that way:
- First, Japanese people thought in the past that it is where Tengu lived
- Secondly, because the mountain looks like a Tengu
- Thirdy, because some people who used to like in Tohoku and moved there in the past thought it looked like the Mt. Tengu of their hometown
In Numata town, there is a festival with a huge mikoshi in the shape of a Tengu mask. Only women wear it, 200-300 of them are needed because it is supposed to ensure an easy delivery. The city is located near the Kashouzan mountain, which is known as a place where Tengu live.
At the Donki Festival in Toyokawa City, a fox, a red Tengu and a blue Tengu chase women and children with a donki 鈍器どんき, which is a stick with paint on it. The paint is supposed to ensure your good health.
A Tengu festival that dates back to the Edo period is held in Osaka in October. Getting hit by the Tengu will help women to have good children, and children to grow up to be strong and wise.
Furubira in Hokkaido holds two Tengu festivals, in summer and in autumn. Both end with the Tengu walking through a bonfire. There are three rules for watching this festival:
- Do not watch the festival from higher place. Looking down on a god is rude. If the Tengu finds out that you are doing this, he will get angry. The Tengu will stop moving if someone passes over him.
- Do not hang your laundry outside on the festival day. You should not show dirty things when God passes by. Again, the Tengu will get angry if he finds out and stop walking. He will frown fiercely at your laundry until you take it away. Do not walk in front of the Tengu. It is rude to walk in front of God.
This is a basic rule that everyone in Kotohira knows. Yet children like to break the rules, don't they? One boy intentionally walked past the Tengu and tried to run away, but the upset Tengu caught him and speared him in the ass. Despite the punishment, the other children saw him as a kind of hero, so he gained something to show others.
What are Tengu a symbol of in Japan?
The Tengu of this period were often conceived of as the ghosts of the arrogant, and as a result the creatures have become strongly associated with vanity and pride. Today the Japanese expression Tengu ni naru ("becoming a Tengu") is still used to describe a conceited person.
Tengu in Pop Culture
The Tengu has become such a complex and versatile character that it is not surprising that he is still widely used today in Japanese pop culture. They appear in countless manga, anime and games and almost every scenario or setting that involves a Yokai includes at least one Tengu, so there are far too many to list.
Tengu in anime
But here are some examples where Tengu are particularly important characters.
- The Eccentric Family: This is a Tengu anime based on a novel by Tomihiko Morimi that aired in 2013. The plot is about a family of Tanuki living in present-day Kyoto and their interactions with the human and Tengu world. One of the characters, Benten, is a young woman who has been kidnapped and trained in the arts of Tengu; a modern twist, since the children who learned Tengu powers in the old stories used to be only boys.
- Black Bird: If you're a fan of sexy vampire fiction, this is the Tengu story for you! Black bird is a manga about a teenage girl who discovers that her blood gives incredible powers to the demons who drink it. Her childhood sweetheart is actually the heir to a Tengu clan, whose leader is prophesied to have her as his wife. He protects her from other demons that constantly attack her: eating her flesh also gives her immortality, which complicates things further, and this sexy Tengu heals her by licking her wounds.
- Kamisama Kiss: Tengu are important characters in the manga and anime Kamisama Kiss. One of them, called Kurama, has a career as a pop idol. He is a "fallen angel", with gothic makeup and wings that everyone thinks are part of his stage costume.
- Tactics: An Onikui Tengu, or oni eating Tengu, is one of the main characters in the Tactics manga. The other main character, Kantaro, is the typical child who can see Yokai when no one else can. In a nice variation of the cliché, he becomes a folklorist. The Tengu is rescued from captivity by Kantaro, but he has lost his memory and finds himself conflicted between his relationship with Kantaro and his desire to regain his powers.
- Kimetsu No Yaiba (Demon Slayer): In the anime Kimetsu no Yaiba, Urokodaki, who appears several times wearing a Tengu mask, is the representation of Tengu Souboujou that teaches the main protagonist of the show, Tanjiro Kamado, how to master the art of the sword.