November’s Japan Photo of the Month is from a weekend trip to an onsen hotel in west Shizuoka prefecture. Right by the hotel was an interesting area with a large Buddha statue on a hill and one even hidden in a cave! On the same hill is Kanzanji Temple. Inside the temple, I saw (actually how could I miss!) this…

Tengu mask in Kanzanji Temple, Shizuoka, Japan
Amazingly colourful, this is a temple for people to come and wish for success in love. Click the image for a larger version.

Originally I thought it was a mask used in kabuki (traditional Japanese play). However after some research, it is much more interesting than that!

The red-faced, long-nosed, as-tall-as-a-person sized mask is that of the Tengu.

Tengu are mythicaly creatures which over the centuries evolved from menacing demons to protective spirits. Tengu have a rich history deeply rooted in Chinese and Japanese religion. This one is wearing a small black cap (called a tokin) as they often mimic the appearance of priests.

This Tengu mask is most likely used in festivals or perhaps as a portable shrine.

You can read more about this interesting spirit at the Tengu Wikipedia page.