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Dazaifu Tenmangu Shrine, Kyushu, Japan

On a sunny day in May, I made a day trip to the town of Dazaifu (太宰府) in Fukuoka Prefecture, Japan. The most famous sight of this quiet and small city on the outskirts of Fukuoka is Dazaifu Tenmangu Shrine (太宰府天満宮).

Tenmangu Shrines are dedicated to the spirit of Sugawara Michizane, a scholar and politician of the Heian Period. Because of his great learning, Michizane has been associated with Tenjin, a Shinto deity of education, and is popular among students, who frequent the grounds of Dazaifu Tenmangu to pray for successful studies, and to buy good-luck charms which are believed to help them passing exams.

Gear used for this set of photos:

  • Fujifilm X-E2 with Fujinon XF 18-55mm f/2.8-4 zoom lens (images marked [F])
  • iPhone 5 (images marked [I])

Heading east from Dazaifu Station, the 300 meter approach to the shrine is lined with shops catering to the needs of visitors. Be it roasted chestnuts [I], …
Roasted Chestnuts Shop, Dazaifu, Kyushu, Japan

… or rice crackers [F], …
Rice Cracker Shop, Dazaifu, Kyushu, Japan

… or souvenirs [F].
Student Souvenirs, Dazaifu, Kyushu, Japan

By now, a constant flow of students is heading towards the shrine [F].
Students approaching Dazaifu Tenmangu Shrine, Kyushu, Japan

At the eastern end of the approach road, a large Torii gate marks the entrance to the premises of Dazaifu Tenmangu [F], …
Torii Gate, Dazaifu Tenmangu Shrine, Kyushu, Japan

… followed by Taikobashi (太鼓橋), a wooden arch bridge traversing Shinji-ike (心字池), a pond that is shaped like the Japanese character for “heart” [I].
Arch Bridges, Dazaifu Tenmangu Shrine, Kyushu, Japan

After crossing the last arch, we are approaching the main entrance to the shrine’s courtyard [F].
Approaching the Courtyard, Dazaifu Tenmangu Shrine, Kyushu, Japan

Here we are in front of the beautiful Rōmon (楼門), the shrine’s main gate [F].
Rōmon (Main Gate), Dazaifu Tenmangu Shrine, Kyushu, Japan

Let’s step inside the courtyard and take a look around.
Kids of all ages frequent the shrine – from kindergarten age [F] …
Elementary School Students, Dazaifu Tenmangu Shrine, Kyushu, Japan

… to High School Students [F].
High School Students, Dazaifu Tenmangu Shrine, Kyushu, Japan

The older students are writing their wishes and prayers on ema (絵馬), wooden plaques that are left hanging up at the shrine. The building visible in the back of this photo is the Honden (本殿), the Main Hall of Dazaifu Tenmangu [I].
Ema (Wooden Prayer Boards), Dazaifu Tenmangu Shrine, Kyushu, Japan

Students also like to buy Omamori (おまもり or お守り); good-luck charms that are sold at stalls around the Main Hall, and that are supposed to help increase the odds for successful studies [I].
Students buying Omamori, Dazaifu Tenmangu Shrine, Kyushu, Japan

Choosing the right Omamori has to be carefully considered [F], …
Students buying Omamori, Dazaifu Tenmangu Shrine, Kyushu, Japan

… after which there is some time to relax and smile at the foreign photographer 🙂 [F].
Student Smiles, Dazaifu Tenmangu Shrine, Kyushu, Japan

Older visitors to the shrine enjoy the site’s beautiful architecture and peaceful natural setting [F], …
Walking to the Main Hall, Dazaifu Tenmangu Shrine, Kyushu, Japan

…, and quite a few of them (including myself) take the chance to get their Goshuinchō (Temple Stamp Book) signed with Dazaifu Tenmangu’s calligraphy and stamps [F].
Temple Calligraphy, Dazaifu Tenmangu Shrine, Kyushu, Japan

On the way back from the shrine to the station, I tried to stay off the main route for a bit, which led me to this nice structure [F], …
Structure outside Dazaifu Tenmangu Shrine, Kyushu, Japan

…, as well as through this quiet side street [F].
Side Street outside Dazaifu Tenmangu Shrine, Kyushu, Japan

Dazaifu Tenmangu makes for a very pleasant and interesting site to visit, and I highly recommend it as a destination for a day trip while staying in the Fukuoka area.

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