Tenome

Tenome

Tenome (手の目, hand eyes) is a yōkai from Japanese mythology who appears in Japanese artist Toriyama Sekien's Gazu Hyakki Yagyō ("The Illustrated Night Parade of Hundreds of Demons").

Concept of Tenome

He has the appearance of a zatō, i.e., a blind man. Since in the Edo period, a blind person could not find work except through guilds designated by the Shogun, in which he assigned each group of people a type of work, these had a monopoly such as masseurs, acupuncturists, and biwa (lute) practice. Therefore, a zato is a masseur or biwa tutor.

A distinguishing feature is that their eyes are located in the palms of their hands.

On the yōkai emaki, from the Tenpō Hyakki Yagyō Emaki period in the Matsui Library in Yatsuhiro, Kumamoto, it is labeled teme-bōzu (手目坊主, "eye-hand") The "Bakemonozukushi" (化物づくし) (by Kōichi Yumoto) also has a depiction of something that appears to be of the same design as the Sekien Tenome.

Yōkai researcher Katsumi Tada gives the interpretation that these drawings of the Tenome and others are a pun on the phrase "bake no kawa ga hageru" (an expression meaning "to reveal one's true character," literally meaning "before making oneself fully known one is able to disguise oneself").

The scene of the eyes in a raised hand would represent the famous expression "teme o ageru" (literally "to catch a glimpse of someone") meaning to reveal a person's tricks.

Legends of Tenome

In the kaidan collection, from the Shokoku Hyaku Monogatari of the Edo Period (1677), there is a setsuwa (story) entitled ばけ物に骨をぬかれし人の事, "How a monster took out a person's bones") that was illustrated with a yōkai that had an eye in each hand, and this monster is believed to be designed based on Sekien's Tenome.

The story goes that a young man entered the cemetery at night, encouraged by his friends, to prove his worth. Out of the shadows comes an old man. When he got close enough, he saw that he had his eyes in his hands and was going after him.

The young man ran as far as he could to a nearby temple where he prayed to the priests of the shrine.

The priest hid him in a large trunk and then he hid himself. The monster entered the temple looking for the young man. The noises came closer to him until they stopped next to the trunk.

Then a strange sound was heard, as if slurping and sucking. Soon after, that sound stopped and silence returned. When the priest opened the trunk to free the young man, all that remained was his flabby skin. His bones had been sucked from his body.

According to the Iwate no Yōkai Monogatari by Yoshio Fujisawa, a legend states that in Iwate Prefecture, there is a tale about the Tenome. A traveler was walking along the plains at night when a blind person approached him.

This person had one eye in each palm, and these eyes seemed to be looking for something.

The traveler ran out of fear, and took refuge in an inn. After telling the innkeeper what he had seen, the innkeeper replied that in a nearby place a few days ago, a blind man had been killed and robbed, and that the blind man, as he lay dying in the grass, lamented:

"If only I could catch a glimpse of their faces! My eyes cannot see, if only I had eyes in the palms of my hands...".

The grudge-filled death of the old blind man is what caused him to be reborn as a yokai, with eyes in his palms just as he wished. Similarly in Echigo, a Tenome is said to have appeared after a blind man was killed.

Tenome In popular culture

  • Pan's Labyrinth: In the Spanish film directed by Guillermo del Toro, the main character (Ofelia), in the second test given to her by the faun, must retrieve a dagger from the lair of a character known as "the Pale Man," who resembles the Tenome.
  • Agony Release: The album cover of German trash metal band Destruction's Agony Release features a Tenome hanging from an IV.
  • In Aaahh!!! Real Monsters: One of the main characters, Krumm is based on the creature.
  • Cuphead: One of Cuphead's bosses, called Blind Specter, is inspired by a Tenome.
  • The Tenome appears as a monster in the Pathfinder. role-playing game.