Noda City Museum’s special exhibition, “Noda and Oosugi-sama”, brings together portable shrines, ritual objects and statuary used in the city’s summer festivals. Among the treasures are three of the city’s remaining tengu, the long-nosed demon who represents the spirit of Oosugi-sama.
The worship of Oosugi-sama originated in Ibaraki Prefecture. The legend says that, in the year 767, a Buddhist monk passing through the villages south of Lake Kasumigaura saw the local people suffering from widespread disease. He prayed to the massive cedar, or oosugi, on the grounds of a shrine, resulting in the recovery of the people. He became a retainer to Oosugi-sama, and was transformed into the magical tengu. Today, people petition Oosugi-sama and his tengu retainer for safe transport, the granting of wishes and the fulfillment of dreams.
Gradually, the reverence for Oosugi-sama spread to Noda City, and today there are a number of shrines to him across the city. The exhibit includes portable shrines in the shape of boats, traditionally carried by children. The highlight is the lovingly restored and preserved tengu figures with their fierce looks, swords and elaborate yamabushi, or mountain monk, attire.
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You will see many of my stories on Japan Travel are about places and events outside of big city centers and tourist destinations. While I highly recommend the big name sights and experiences, I encourage visitors to see and feel the atmosphere off the beaten path, too.