I was having a small spring cleaning last week and when I went through all my documents and leaflets I came across leaflets about the Dazaifu Tenmangu shrine. I took a look at them and realized I didn’t even write a post about our trip there yet. So I will obviously be making a change to that today! Forgetful as I am I forgot my camera’s memory card so until my friend lent me hers I couldn’t take any photos of the first part of the trip. I will go back soon to make more photos though because I found a part-time job near the shrine and go there once a week now.
|All credit to Leonemoff|
I have mentioned Dazaifu shrine a few times before because it is a very big and famous shrine near Fukuoka city and it is one of the most famous touristic sightseeing sights in the area. It is especially beautiful in February when the plum blossoms are blooming. There are more than a thousand of these trees at Dazaifu so it is supposed to be very nice. I haven’t personally been there in February but I did go to its slightly smaller brother in Kyoto called Kitano Tenmangu and I can vouch for the incredible beauty of the plum blossom (I even prefer it to cherry blossoms now).
|All credit to CTG/SF|
Dazaifu Tenmangu is a shrine established in the 7th century after the death of Suguwara no Michizane. Michizane was born in Kyoto into a family of scholars loyal to the emperor. He made it as Minister of Right of the emperor, one of the highest political positions at the royal house. But with the fall of the emperor and the strategic maneuverings of his rival he was demoted to a minor post in Dazaifu and exiled from Kyoto. After he was exiled and died in Dazaifu, the imperial court was struck by a series of disasters and the young emperor passed away. Because of this the imperial decided to build a shrine dedicated to Michizane to calm his vengeful spirit. This is the Kitano Tenmangu shrine I mentioned above. Another shrine was built where his remains lay, which is the Dazaifu Tenmangu shrine.
|Must try snack; Umegae Mochi|
Michizane was not only a politician and scholar, but he was an excellent poet as well. Here is a beautiful poem that shows his passion for plum blossoms:
When the east wind blows, flourish in full bloom, you, plum blossoms! Even though you lose your master, don’t be oblivious to spring.
The Dazaifu shrine is not only famous for its connections with Michizane, there is also an unexpected connection with sumo. Hidden behind the shrine is a sumo stable! In Fukuoka there is a big official sumo tournament in November so you can take a look at the sumo wrestlers practicing from the beginning of November.
|a little teaser of the Kitano Tenmangu plum blossoms|
When we arrived there were already a group of people taking a look at the practice. These are very serious events though so you can not disturb them in any way. That’s why they practice inside a stable and you are not allowed to go in. You can see the practice from the big windows. You should be quiet and not take any photos with a flash. It was my first time seeing a sumo practice and I have never seen a match on T.V. either so to see it in really life from the first time was really impressive. The sumo players really are big, it was so surprising. Especially when you compare them to the really skinny average Japanese person.
We were lucky enough to interview one of the top players. I guess it is hard to say no to a group of 50 foreign students 😉 We could all ask him some questions and he was kind enough to answer to all our questions. To be honest, I don’t remember what we asked him because it has already been a few months. If only I made notes or a video. Oh well, nothing to do about it. Anyway, while that guy was talking to us another one of the high ranking sumo wrestlers was making weird faces and gestures behind him so it was really hard to stay serious. He is a hilarious guy and I can’t believe he is such a big celebrity or famous person in the sumo world. They were also nice enough to take time for their Japanese fans as well, especially the little ones.
When that whole comedy show was over we had time to explore the area by ourselves and we were recommended to go to Komyozenji garden. It is located in a cute area with nice houses. The front garden is nice with a small stone garden but the rear garden is where the magic happens. You first take your shoes of when you go in and walk into this big open room with tatami mats, almost like you are visiting a traditional house, and then you walk onto this small balcony with a wondrous garden. At first it seems just like any garden, but you need to take your time to appreciate it. I think I sat down for at least half an hour just admiring the quiet and the lush trees. It truly was an oasis of peace. I might even say it is the nicest place in the Fukuoka area I have been to so far. Photos do not do the place any justice, believe me. We went there just before the leaves turned into bright autumn colors but I can only imagine how magical this place will be when it does have them in the middle of November.
If you go to Fukuoka then Dazaifu is a no-brainer that you should definitely visit. And if you have the time you should try Komyozenji as well for a true experience Japanese beauty and zen.