Kitano Tenmangu, the shrine of the Patron of Learning
Established in 947, Kitano Tenmangu is the head shrine for the nation’s 10,000 tenmangu enshrining Michizane Sugawara who was heralded as a child prodigy, a scholar and a politician. Currently, there is an ardent faith in the Patron of Learning and many students preparing for examinations come to visit the shrine from all over Japan.
Patting the ox for good luck
Having been born in the Year of the Ox, many legends remain about Michizane’s connection with the ox, and so it was made to become the messenger for the Tenjin, and on the temple grounds, a number of statues of oxen have been enshrined. When the head of the statue of a black ox known as the “Patting Ox” is rubbed, it’s said that the person will become smarter. Furthermore, it’s also said that after a visitor rubs a part of his body that is having problems and then rubbing the corresponding part on the ox, that area will be cured. In addition, there is the “Lantern of the God of Wealth” on which the mouth of the god is carved into the pedestal. If a small stone is placed there without falling out and placed into a wallet with a prayer, then the owner will have no money problems.
The wonders of Kitano Tenmangu
Once beyond the roumon tower gate on the path leading to the shrine, the visitor will encounter the main Sanko (three lights) gate, named since the sun, moon and a star are carved into it. One theory goes that though there are these carvings of a sun, a moon and a crescent moon, there is no carving of a star since the star Polaris is twinkling straight above the gate. And as for the many statues of oxen lying down on the grounds, it is said that they are prostrate since the ox that was pulling the cart with Michizane’s remains simply lied down and refused to move. However, according to the carving on the ranma screen over the doorway of the front shrine, there is one standing sacred ox which remains a mystery to the present day. Also, paying homage at the shrine is always done at the front, but at the rear of the main shrine of Kitano Tenmangu, there is the Onkou-no-Mihashira, the site to place a sacred object, where Amenohohi (the ancestral god for Michizane), Kiyotomo Sugawara (his grandfather) and Koreyoshi Sugawara (his father) are enshrined to be worshipped together.