Fukuoka’s ancient shrine, Dazaifu Tenmangu, holds a significant place in Japanese history and culture. Built to appease the spirit of Michizane Sugawara, a learned scholar and politician who was exiled to Dazaifu, the shrine stands as a testament to his legacy and the reverence he commands even to this day.
The story of Michizane Sugawara begins in the 9th century, during a time of great political turmoil in japan. Michizane was a highly respected scholar and poet, known for his intelligence and wit. He rose to prominence in the government, serving as a high-ranking official in the imperial court. However, his success and influence made him enemies, particularly within the powerful Fujiwara clan.
In a fierce rivalry with the Fujiwara clan, Michizane found himself on the losing side. He was falsely accused of treason and banished from Kyoto, the capital of Japan at that time. His exile took him to Dazaifu, a remote city located in present-day Fukuoka Prefecture. It was here that Michizane spent the remainder of his life, far from the political center of Japan.
Despite his exile, Michizane’s reputation and influence did not wane. He continued to be revered as a literary genius and a master of calligraphy. Many scholars and students sought his guidance and blessings, believing that his spirit possessed divine powers. It is said that Michizane’s death in 903 was followed by a series of natural disasters and misfortunes, which the government interpreted as the result of his curse. To appease his spirit and seek his forgiveness, the government decided to build a shrine in his honor.
Thus, Dazaifu Tenmangu Shrine was born. The shrine was constructed above Michizane’s grave, and it became a place of pilgrimage for those seeking his blessings and protection. The main hall of the shrine, known as Honden, stands as a testament to Michizane’s legacy and the devotion of his followers.
The architecture of Dazaifu Tenmangu is stunning, reflecting the grandeur and beauty of Japanese shrines. The main hall is adorned with intricate carvings and decorations, showcasing the skill and craftsmanship of the artisans who built it. The shrine is surrounded by lush gardens and beautiful plum trees, which are in full bloom every March, creating a breathtaking sight for visitors.
The plum trees hold a special significance at Dazaifu Tenmangu. Legend has it that one particular plum tree, known as Tobiume or the flying plum tree, uprooted itself and flew to Dazaifu to be with Michizane. This story reflects Michizane’s deep connection with plum trees, as he was known to have a profound love for them. It is said that he composed his first poem at the age of five, expressing his admiration for the beauty of the red plum blossom.
Today, Dazaifu Tenmangu continues to attract visitors from all over Japan and the world. Many students visit the shrine to pray for success in their exams, seeking Michizane’s blessings and guidance. The shrine offers charms and ema, wooden plaques on which visitors can write their wishes and prayers, to assist them in their academic endeavors.
Apart from the main shrine, Dazaifu offers more to explore. The road leading to the shrine is lined with shops selling umegae mochi, a local delicacy made of rice cakes filled with sweet red bean paste. Visitors can also indulge in unique flavors of ice cream, such as green tea, black sesame, and kinako, along with countless souvenir shops.
For those interested in delving deeper into Michizane’s life and history, the Kanko Historical Museum provides a wealth of information. The museum showcases dioramas depicting the main events of Michizane’s life, allowing visitors to gain a deeper understanding of his legacy and the impact he had on Japanese society.
Additionally, the Kyushu National Museum, located up the hill from Dazaifu Tenmangu, offers comprehensive exhibits on Michizane’s rise to prominence and his subsequent exile. The museum provides valuable insights into the political and cultural context of Michizane’s era, allowing visitors to grasp the significance of his story within the broader narrative of Japanese history.
Throughout the year, Dazaifu Tenmangu hosts various festivals that celebrate its rich history and traditions. One such festival is the annual umeshu festival, held in March to coincide with the plum blossoms. Visitors can sample different varieties of plum liqueur and immerse themselves in the festive atmosphere. Another notable event is the Kyokusui-no-en Festival, where Waka poets dressed in traditional kimono gather along a small stream to compose poems before a cup of sake reaches them.
Dazaifu Tenmangu is not only a place of historical and cultural significance but also a serene and peaceful sanctuary away from the bustling city life. As visitors explore the shrine’s grounds and take in the beauty of the surroundings, they can’t help but feel a sense of tranquility and reverence for the spirit of Michizane Sugawara.
In conclusion, Dazaifu Tenmangu Shrine stands as a testament to the enduring legacy of Michizane Sugawara and his profound impact on Japanese culture. From its magnificent architecture to its lush gardens and vibrant festivals, the shrine offers visitors a glimpse into the rich history and traditions of Japan. Whether seeking academic success or simply seeking solace in a serene environment, Dazaifu Tenmangu is a must-visit destination for anyone interested in Japanese history and spirituality.
Address And Maps Location:
4-7-7-1 Saifu, Dazaifu-shi, Fukuoka-ken