Beware of the nightly Tengu

mark severin - the tenguThe Tengu – are Japanese mythological human sized, bird-like creatures who are alleged to be dangerous but not always ill-willed spirits of the wilderness, who fly mostly at night. There are two kinds of Tengu:

  • Karasu-Tengu with a short thick bird’s beak; and
  • Konoha-Tengu which has a long straight impertinent nose.

They hatch from ostrich-like eggs and the Konoha-Tengu sometimes wears an amusing hexagonal red hat*. For a long time Tengu were considered enemies of Buddhism. However the deity were later accepted within the Buddhist pantheon because it was so deeply entrenched in the spiritual life of the countryside. Belief in the Tengu was still strong in the 19th century. When the Shogun was to make a progress to Nikko, he caused a notice to be published in advance (between 1845-1867) which read:

“To the Tengu and other demons, As it is certain that in the coming month of April, the Shogun wishes to visit the sacred precincts of Nikko, you Tengu living in the area shall have to move elsewhere till after the visit of the Shogun. In the month of July Mizuno, Lord of Dewa”.

The illustrator of this Tengu piece is Mark Severin. He was commissioned by the P&O Cruising Line to present a set of Japanese mythological menu covers (six in all in the series), to be used on its cruising ships. This example is from the  S.S. Iberia evening dinner menu for Sunday, 14 March, 1971. The Chef de Jour was:  D.J. Bayne.

Appetizer – smoked salmon or tomato juice.
Soup – Consomme Bretonne.
Fish  – Fillet of Brill, Bosniaque.
Grill to order – Minute steak sauce Bercy.
Cold buffet – Yale pie, roast veal.
Sweets – choice of: Apricot Aurora, Friandises or savory Barquetes Mephisto.

Two wines recommended for dinner service were:
Haut Medoc (red) and Puligny Montrachet (1966 White)

*Not to be confused with the Edward de Bono “Six Thinking Hats” where the red hat = Emotions – intuitive or instinctive gut reactions or statements of emotional feeling (but not any justification). For more information on deBono’s Six Thinking Hats click here.

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