Dazaifu Tenmangu is a shrine built over the grave of Michizane Sugawara venerated by the Japanese throughout the country as the Tenman-Tenjin(the deified spirit of Michizane), or the God of literature or calligraphy.
4-7-1 Saifu, Dazaifu-city, Fukuoka, 818-0195, Japan.
Michizane, who had been a high-ranking government officer, was demoted because of the slander and political chicanery of his rivals, the Fujiwara clan.
He endured a life of extreme hardship and misery in exile at Dazaifu, yet preserved his character continuing his scholarly studies and never developing the hatred for those who had exiled him. He died in 903 at the age of 59.
His funeral procession was a melancholy occasion, attended only by his faithful follower Yasuyuki Umasake and a few neighbors. The coffin was carried on a wagon hauled by an ox led by Yasuyuki, according to the legend the ox suddenly came to a halt and refused to budge despite threats and entreaties. The burial therefore took place on the spot, and this became the site of the Tenmangu's main shrine visited today by so many admirers.
Michizane was born in Kyoto in 845 into a family of scholars and was heir to a long tradition of loyal service to the Emperor. He was a devoted scholar from his earliest years and at the tender age of five gazed at a plum tree in the family garden and composed this celebrated Waka;
"How beautiful the red plum blossom, I wish to color my cheek with it."
By the age of eleven he was composing poetry in the Chinese style and using Chinese characters.
He went on to serve the Emperor as a trusted Minister of the Right, until he fell into disfavor and was exiled to Dazaifu, as Dazai Gonnosochi. Two years of his exile were spent at the Minami-kan(South hall) of Enokidera(present Enokisha), the detached office of the Dazaifu Government.
Michizane is celebrated as a man, pure in heart and deed, and after his death he was deified and worshipped as a God.
The way of the kami(deities). Numerous deities, including clan ancestors, were worshiped in ancient Japan, and official life was also inextricably bound up with worship of the gods. However, this native religion was not known by any particular name until Buddhism and Confucianism were imported from the Chinese continent. As a religion, Shinto is not based on a founder, dogma, or sacred scripture, but rather on custom, reverence for ancestral traditions, and living and acting according to the guidance of the gods. The imperial house has preserved a relatively pure version of this ancient tradition; popular beliefs have generally developped in amalgamation with other religions.
There are approximately 6,000 plum trees of 197 varieties in the vicinity of Tenmangu, reflecting Michizane's lifelong affection and regard for the trees and their blossoms.
Perhaps the most famous is the one to the right of Honden (main shrine). Known as Tobiume (the flying plum tree), legend has it that after Michizane left Kyoto for a life in exile, this particular tree yearned so much for him that, uprooting himself, it flew to reunite with him in Dazaifu.
In early January each year, Tobiume is always the very first tree to blossom, and the thousands of other trees quickly follow, producing an incredible sight when the Tenmangu is coverd in small pink and white flowers.
Two years after the death of Michizane, his follower Yasuyuki Umasake built the first shrine in 905.
A larger structure was constructed by the Fujiwara clan in 919 but was burnt to the ground during the one of many civil wars. The main shrine visitors see today dates from 1591 and is a fine example of Momoyama-styled architecture.
The bridge is formed from three elements, the first arched bridge represents the past, the flat bridge the present, and the second arched bridge the future. It is typically a Buddhism in conception, reflecting the idea that one thought only should be held at the given time. Beautiful Shinjiike is a pond shape to resemble the ideogram for "heart".
In 1928 the shrine celebrated the 1,025th anniversary of the death of Michizane and built this hall in memory of the commemoration.
A new museum was rebuilt in 1992. This museum has Dazaifu Tenmangu’s many notable collections of art and historical objects. Several ones are designated as the national treasure or important cultural properties.
There are many camphor trees in the area, and the one towering to the left of the main shrine is estimated at 1,000 years old.