The people of two strange tribes, one with very long arms and the other with very long legs, often mentioned in Chinese cosmologies and encyclopedias such as the Shānhăi Jīng
and the Sāncái Túhuì
. They were originally referred to by such names as the Chángbìmín
長臂民 (long elbows people) and the Chánggŭmín
長股民 (long thighs people), but their names were respectively simplified to tenaga
in Japan. One Chinese account has the two tribes working as a team to catch fish, with the long-armed people riding on the long-legged people's shoulders, an idea which apparently inspired a number of artists. 1,2
In the Heian Era such an image was once displayed in the imperial palace in Kyoto, in the Seiryōden hall. The long-limbed duo, catching fish on a choppy seashore, were painted on a sliding door called the Araumi-no-shōji 荒海の障子 (rough-sea shoji). As the figures were thought to represent a sort of immortal being, their presence was hoped to encourage the longevity of the emperor. 1,3
is also the name of a legendary giant seen in Japanese folklore. In Akita and Yamagata Prefectures
, the giant's home is on Mount Chōkai 鳥海山, but it is thought to come down into the villages to commit wickedness and attack boats on the shore. A three-legged spirit-crow sent by Ōmono Imu-no-kami 大物忌神, the deity of the mountain, is then responsible for warning of the tenaga-ashinaga's
presence, crying uya
when it appears and muya
when it is gone. Three promontories at the base of the mountain, called Uyamuya-no-seki 有耶無耶の関, take their name from this legend. In Fukushima Prefecture
, another tenaga-ashinaga
lives on Mount Bandai 磐梯山, and in Nagano Prefecture
, the tenaga-ashinaga
is worshipped as a servant of the primary deity of the ancient Suwa Taisha shrine. 3
1. Kyōgoku 1998 p. 131.
2. Strassberg pp. 166 & 174.
3. Murakami 2005 p. 220.