History of Dazaifu Tenmangu
Sugawarano Michizane was born in 845 in Kyoto as a son of a scholar family serving for the court. Michizane became a scholar, poet, and politician of the Heian Period of Japan. He was very talented and became the Minister of Popular Affairs. But because he was too talented, he was envied by his colleagues. Finally, he was exiled to Dazaifu in Kyushu by their conspiracy. Dazaifu was very far from the capital city and he could never come back to his former home. Michizane was very disappointed and died at the age of 57 after spending about one year in Dazaifu.
His body was about to be brought to the Anrakuji Temple by cow carriage, but the cow stopped in Dazaifu and thus people thought he wanted to stay there and they buried him there. After Michizane’s death, epidemics and bad weather continued and one of the nobles died at a very young age. People thought all these were done by the vengeful spirit of Michizane, so they built a shrine for him on the grave. This was the beginning of Dazaifu Tenmangu.
But the misfortune didn’t stop here. A few more nobles suddenly became ill and died, and lightning hit one of the imperial court building where many people died in the fire that ensued, and then even Emperor Daigo died three months after the fire. Then the people decided to give him back his former title of Minister and raised the rank of his shrine to ‘Tenmangu’, which was normally only used for the Imperial shrines.
The God of Study
The worship of Michizane has become very popular since then. Because he was a talented scholar, people started to pray at his shrine for success in their studies. The spirit of Michizane was shared and a great number of Tenmangu shrines were constructed all over Japan. It is said that the total number is more than 10,000. The Kitano Tenmangu in Kyoto and the Bofu Tenmangu in Yamaguchi are two of the most famous ones.
Even today, many students visit a nearby Tenmangu shrine to pray for passing their entrance examinations for high school or college. They buy good luck charms and keep them close at hand.
Dazaifu Tenmangu still remains as the center of all Tenmangu shrines, and many people visit it from all over Japan. It is the most popular shrine in Kyushu. The precinct is like a large park. From the entrance, you walk straight and you will cross three bridges over the Shinji Pond. Three ponds mean past, present, and future. By passing the bridges, you will be purified.
In front of the main hall, there is a plum tree. It is a symbol of Michizane because he once made a poem about a plum tree. ‘When the east wind blows let it send your fragrance, oh plum blossoms; although your master is gone, do not forget the spring.’ Then you will find the main hall which is also the grave of Michizane. The main hall was constructed above the place where he was buried.
Your Japan Tour
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Access : 5 minutes walk from Dazaifu (大宰府) station
Entrance : Free entrance to the precinct
Hours : 6:30 – 18:00 (longer opening time in spring, summer, and autumn depending on the month)