Dazaifu Tenmangu Shrine near Fukuoka is a beautiful and very popular Shinto shrine. The shrine, which is dedicated to the scholar and politician Michizane (Tenjin) who lived over a thousand years ago, is very popular amongst students as a place to pray for luck in studies. In this post I talk about my visit to the shrine and then share some information and tricks for getting there.
Visiting Dazaifu Tenmangu Shrine
Prepare yourself for the crowds. Especially if you go on the weekend or a public holiday like I did. Already when you leave the train station the madness begins. The road which leads up to the shrines first torii is lined with sweets shops, souvenir shops and even a very fancy looking Starbucks. When I went the road was so packed with people that you could hardly get from one side to the other.
I stopped for a snack on the way. The specialty here is the Umegae mochi, a grilled bean cake which typically has the pattern of a plum tree on it. The shape can be a bit hard to recognize, but the cake is delicious.
The story behind the plum tree goes back to Michizane, the on who’s grave site the shrine is built. To make a long story short, the Fujiwara clan wasn’t especially pleased with Michizane as he was said to be favored by the gods (he wrote some very good poetry apparently), so they exiled him to Kyushu. Michizane loved plum trees very much. Actually, he loved them so much that he dedicated his poems to his favorite trees I’ve heard. The large plum tree inside the shrine supposedly flew from Kyoto to Dazaifu when he died. I might reserve the right for a bit of skepticism here, but it’s a very nice story. Today the shrine grounds hold over 6000 plum trees of more than 160 types.
The Dazaifu shrine grounds cover quite a large area. As is evident from the map below there are quite a few attraction on and near the shrine grounds.
Sights at Dazaifu Tenmangu Shrine
Of all the sights I really enjoyed the bridges over the pond, the iris pond and of course the main shrine itself very much. One place I enjoyed the most though was the little shrine on top of the hill (see map) with the many red torii leading up to it. Below I will comment a bit on some of the important sights.
Goshingyu – the ox statues
Right when you enter you will see people lining up to touch, and be photographed with the large ox statue. The ox is there because it is said that Michizanes body was carried by an ox after his death. You might want to touch the statues head for gaining wisdom.
Shinjiike and the three bridges
Three bridges connect the two sides of this beautiful little pond via two small islands. The first and the last are characteristic tall and roundish bridges (Taiko-bashi) while the middle one is flat. The three bridges are said to represent the past, present and the future.
Honden – the Dazaifu Tenmangu shrine main building
The main building is a beautiful old building which has been standing in it’s current form since 1591. Several prior original buildings from around year 900 up to 1591 were destroyed by fires and wars.
Dazaifu Tenmangu Shrine Iris Garden
The Iris garden is a beautiful pond also found on the temple grounds. It has small “islands” of Iris. Unfortunately they weren’t blooming when I visited, but if you come in early July you might have more lucks with it.
Tenkaiinari Shrine was really my favorite part of the visit to Dazaifu Tenmangu shrine. It’s a small shrine located on a hill top nearby. To get there, walk behind the main shrine building and follow the path leading you away from the main shrine. Eventually you will pass a few eateries and the come by a set of stairs covered in red Torii gates. Walk up the stairs and you are there. I really liked it because it was so quiet and calm compared to the rest of the area. Part from a few tourists, mostly japanese people came here to pray and then left again when I visited. It’s a good spot to sit on a bench and think about life.
The Problem of Faith art installation
This art installation from Keidai Art Museum is installed in the forrest on the hill just besides the main shrine. It seems not many people know about this, because I was literally the only person there. It’s an interesting piece called “The problem of faith”. I’ll leave it up for your own interpretation.
Beautiful Plum and Sakura Trees
Finally, just give yourself time to enjoy the blooming flowers if you are there in season!
Read my dedicated post on how to get to Dazaifu Tenmangu shrine. There are a few ways.