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Tenjōname

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Tenjōname
Tenjoname
Information
Japanese name 天井嘗
Romanized name Tenjōname
Meaning Ceiling-licker
Type Unknown
Book(s) Gazu Hyakki Tsurezure Bukuro

Tenjōname (天井嘗, Tenjōname) is a creature from Japanese folklore.

DescriptionEdit

A creature which appears in Toriyama Sekien's Gazu Hyakki Tsurezure Bukuro. It has a beastly head and an anthropoid body covered in paper streamers, and it stands in midair while it licks at the ceiling of a house with its long tongue. Sekien gives the following explanation:

天井の高は灯くらうしへ冬さむしと言へども、これ家さくの故にもあらず。
まったく此怪のなすわざにて、ぞっとするなるべしと、夢のうちに思ひぬ。
They say the height of the ceiling devours the lamplight when the winter is cold, but it is not due to the plan of the house. Truly, at the deeds carried out by this apparition, one must shiver, I saw it not in a dream.

In this last of Sekien's monster books, there are many references made to Yoshida Kenkō's Tsurezuregusa, and this page in particular has been linked to to part of stanza 55 of Kenkō's work, which reads:

天井の高きは、冬寒く、燈暗し
As for the height of the ceiling, in the winter cold, the lamplight is dark.

The houses of this era were made with tall ceilings meant for keeping cool in summer, but on winter nights they created a gloomy space which the weak light of oil lamps did not reach. Much like dark closets and the space under beds are the realm of monsters for Western children, the Japanese considered the dark ceiling and similar spaces the boundary between the house and the spirit world. So appropriately, Sekien implies that the darkness of the ceiling is not merely due to its height, but it is actively created by the tenjōname.

Modern yōkai books often describe the tenjōname as the cause of stains on the ceilings of old houses, but this explanation seems to have first appeared in Fujisawa Morihiko's Yōkai Gadan Zenshū (1930).

GalleryEdit

ReferencesEdit

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