Ashinaga and Tenaga

Place made: 
Asia; Japan
Ashinaga and Tenaga, 18th or 19th century
Ivory; carved with pigment
Overall: 5 3/16 in x 1 5/16 in x 5/8 in; 13.2 cm x 3.3 cm x 1.6 cm
William Richter Collection, Gift of Margaret Ruth Richter (Class of 1939)
MH 1986.30.32

According to Japanese legend, Ashinaga and Tenaga were anthropomorphic creatures that resided near the sea. Tenaga’s long arms were ideal for catching fish, while Ashinaga possessed long legs, allowing him to wade into the waters far from shore. Together they formed a symbiotic relationship with Tenaga astride the shoulders of Ashinaga, an arrangement that permitted them to catch many more fish. The two are always portrayed with exotic hairstyles, emphasizing their mythical stature.