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Thu Mar 31, 2016, 11:15 AM

Dazaifu: A plum shrine at the heart of a mythic sphere


A visit to the town of Dazaifu in northern Kyushu typically begins with the short walk from the little square in front of the station along the "omotesando" road lined with shops and tea houses to the torii gateway beneath which you pass to enter Tenmangu shrine.

Tenmangu celebrates Sugawara no Michizane, deified as Tenjin, the god of letters and learning, and this ancient center of history and culture attracts millions of visitors every year.

Each New Year it is thronged with students seeking Tenjin’s favor as they prepare to sit their exams and in February huge crowds descend on the shrine once again, drawn this time to the blossoming of a vast variety of plum trees, among them the famous "tobiume" (flying plum), so beloved of Michizane that it followed him from Kyoto to his lonely exile in Dazaifu.

While it is primarily Tenmangu and Michizane’s legacy that people come to see, Dazaifu was already a vital part of the nascent state of Yamato hundreds of years before his advent, and to fully appreciate and enjoy its beauty and history, I would start about a kilometer away from the station, on a wide parcel of ground known as the Tofuroato.


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