Enshrined Deity: Tenjin
Address: 4-7-1, Saifu, Dazaifu, Fukuoka Prefecture 818-0195
Size: 350,000 Square Meters - 86.5 acres
Should the east winds blow,
carry me the fragrance of plum blossom;
And though your lord is gone,
never forget the springtime.
When Michizane died, his body was carried by his follower Umasake no Yasuyuki in an oxcart. Legend says that when they reached Saifu, the ox suddenly stopped and refused to move any further. So Yasuyuki had to bury his body on the spot. Yasuyuki built the first Dazaifu Tenman-gu shrine on his grave three years later in 909. The original structure was small, but in 919, the Fujiwari clan rebuilt it into a massive 86 acre shrine compound that is now one of the three great shrines for Tenjin. (Note: any shrine named Tenman-gu is a shrine dedicated to Tenjin.)
These shrines are also famous for having plum trees on shrine grounds. That is because Michizane was particularly fond of the plum tree. At age 5, he composed this waka poem:
the red plum blossom
I wish to color
my cheek with it.
Over time, Tenjin shifted from being seen as a god of natural disasters to a god of scholarship and learning. Michizane was known as a great scholar and poet in his time. So now it's very common for students or other modern scholars to make a pilgrimage to a Tenjin shrine to pray for success in their studies.
Across Japan, there are over 10,000 Tenman-gu shrines. Daizaifu Tenman-gu is the first and most important of them all.
The original shrine built in 919 was destroyed during a civil war, and the current complex was rebuilt in 1591. It is a large, sprawling shrine complex. It is famous for the approximately 6,000 plum trees sprinkled throughout the area. In addition, there are many large kusunoki (camphor) tress, with one large tree estimated to be over 1,000 years old.
Tenman-gu shrines often will have statues of ox to represent the ox that carried Michizane after his death. Of course, Dazaifu Tenman-gu is no exception. They say it's good luck to rub the ox's head or horns.
Once you enter from the front gate, you have to cross over two beautiful bridges to enter the main shrine. These arched bridges symbolize crossing from the past, to the present, then to the future. The pond that flows below the bridges was built in the shape of the kanji for heart (心).