Tenman-gū is admired for the God of Learning
The national head shrine for 12,000 shrines, Dazaifu Tenman-gū is dedicated to the God of Learning, Tenjin, the deified form of Sugawara, and attracts 7 million visitors annually in granting the wishes for passing examinations and academic achievement. Sugawara, who displayed academic talent at a young age and took on the roles of a scholar, politician and a man of culture, passed away in the year 903 in the south building of the Dazaifu government house (the current Enokisha Shrine within the shrine grounds) where he had resided and is now buried there.
Buildings connected to Sugawara
Within the shrine grounds, there are about 6,000 plum trees of 200 different species planted, and the time spanning the beginning of February to the middle of March is the peak time to view them. The roasted rice cakes, Umegaya Mochi, which is associated with the plums, are a well-known product, and along the 450m sando path which stretches from east to west, there are approximately 80 shops from where the smoky aroma of the rice cakes float in the air. At the information office right by the entrance to the shrine, original goods associated with Dazaifu are also sold. The bronze statue of the Sacred Ox is a symbol of Tenman-gū. The reason for this is said to have come from a legend which states that Sugawara had been born in the year of the ox and that an ox-drawn cart moved his remains to their final resting place. When the ox suddenly refused to move, it was seen as the oracle for Sugawara and thus he was buried right there in the very site where Tenman-gū would be built. There is a total of 12 oxen made of bronze or stone within the grounds, and among these, the Sacred Ox is worshiped for the knowledge that can be granted to visitors if its head is patted. At Shinji Pond whose shape resembles that of the kanji character for “mind”, there is an arched bridge followed by a flat bridge in turn followed by another arched bridge which represent the past, the present and the future respectively. Traversing on these bridges, body and mind are cleansed so that a visitor can head over to the honden (Main Shrine). The well to purify one’s mouth and hands in front of the tower gate is Japan’s largest example created from one single huge rock. The honden which also serves as Sugawara’s tomb has a roof made from cypress bark and has retained its lovely appearance for over 400 years. It has been designated nationally as an Important Cultural Property.