How to Enjoy Fukuoka’s Premier Tourist Spot, Dazaifu Tenmangu
Dazaifu Tenmangu is a popular shrine that attracts approximately 8 million worshippers in a year. Below are the highlights of this famous shrine.
What is Dazaifu Tenmangu?
Dazaifu Tenmangu is a Shinto shrine dedicated to Saijin, the deified form of Sugawara no Michizane, the deity for academics. There are approximately 12,000 shrines dedicated to Michizane across the country, and this one is considered as the holy ground for Tenjin worship.
What is Dazaifu Tenmangu?
Sugawara no Michizane is an actual person who lived around 1,150 years ago. He is known to have had a variety of faces as a scholar, educator, and politician. He was relegated to Fukuoka from Kyoto as a result of political intrigue and spent his last years in Fukuoka. After his death, his coffin was placed on a Gissha (a court noble's ox carriage), but at one point, the ox laid down and would no longer move. Michizane's followers determined that it must be in accordance with Michizane's wishes and buried his remains at that location. A shrine was built above the grave and that became the foundation for Dazaifu Tenmangu.
First, you'll want to look for the goshingyu, which are bronze and stone statues of the sacred cow in various places on the shrine grounds. They are based on the folklore regarding the ox carriage mentioned earlier, and it is said that if you pet their heads, you will be bestowed with wisdom.
Shinjiike (Shinji Pond) and Three Bridges
The pond that comes into sight when you walk up the main path is Shinjiike (Shinji Pond). There are three sacred bridges on it: An arched Taiko-bashi, a Taira-bashi (flat bridge), and another Taiko-bashi. They represent the past, present and future. It is said that you can be purified in both body and soul by crossing these bridges.
Once you pass Shinjiike, you will see the vermillion romon (a two-story gate at the entrance of shrines and temples). Romon are usually built symmetrically, but this one is known to have a unique structure. If you look at it from the front, it is a double-layer gate with a roof on the lower floor, but from the back, it is a single-layer gate with no roof on the lower floor.
Honden and Tobiume
Next is the Honden (main shrine, an Important Cultural Property of Japan) where Michizane is enshrined. It was originally built in the 900s, but was subsequently destroyed in fires (during war, etc.) and the current structure was built in 1591. It is famous as a structure that represents the grand architectural style of the time, with an interior covered in black lacquer, golden cylindrical columns and a transom with carvings of white lotus and carp.
If you are there in the early spring, don't miss the Tobiume nearby. It is a holy plum tree that is said to have flown overnight from the house in Kyoto to be with Michizane, who loved plum blossoms. In addition to this tree, there are approximately 6,000 plum trees of 200 varieties on the shrine grounds.
There are two camphor trees called Meoto Kusu (married camphor trees) behind the main shrine. They were given this name because the way they lean against each other reminds one of a married couple. There are many other camphor trees on the grounds, two of which are Natural Monuments of Japan and 49 of which are Natural Monuments of the prefecture. The O-Kusunoki (giant camphor tree) is a famous old tree that is said to be more than 1,500 years old.
Try the Specialty Umegaemochi
Don't forget to try the specialty umegaemochi! It is a grilled mochi sweet that consists of azuki filling wrapped in a thin layer of mochi with a stamp in the shape of a plum blossom. They can be purchased or eaten at one of the many shops along the path to the shrine. The recommended teahouse to try it at is the popular Sabo Kikuchi, which is located along the path to the shrine. Its set menu of one umegaemochi and a drink is popular.
Sample menu: Matcha green tea set (600 JPY (incl. tax))
Dazaifu City, which is about 30 minutes by car or train from the center of Fukuoka City, has many other attractive spots, so be sure to visit them when you are in the Fukuoka area!
*Please note that the information in this article is from the time of writing or publication and may differ from the latest information.
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