Mori Taro has served as a priest at Dazaifu Tenmangu for 20 years. His father was also a
priest at Dazaifu Tenmangu and his mother was a researcher at the shrine. Although he didn't
intend to follow in his father’s footsteps, he realized that the shrine represented Japanese
culture in its purest form, and wanted to share that with a wider audience.
What do you normally wear at the shrine?
Priests normally wear a white robe and hakama pleated pants. For rituals and ceremonies, we wear another more colorful layer over the top, made of dyed silk. This formal robe is a traditional design from the Heian period (794–1185).
What’s your favorite spot on the shrine grounds?
There’s a tall camphor tree over 1,500 years old near the honden. It's a source of inspiration and encouragement for me, and just gazing up at it, I'm overcome with a sense of calm. Despite being so old, it gets the most beautiful, fresh green leaves each spring.
Can you tell us about the festivals held at the shrine?
There are ritual events and festivals all year round, and the two biggest are Sugawara Michizane's birthday on July 25 and the Jinkoshiki festival which runs from September 21–25. On the final evening of the Jinkoshiki we hold the Thousand Candles Ceremony, when scores of lanterns are lit over the taiko-bashi bridges. The finale is the beautiful kagura dance by a shrine maiden on a special stage set up over the pond.