Dazaifu Tenman-gū (太宰府天満宮) is a Shinto shrine located some 45 minutes south of Fukuoka City, and one of the most important shrines dedicated to the spirit of Sugawara Michizane, a government official, scholar, and master calligrapher of the Heian Period. Tenjin, the deified form of Michizane, is revered as the god of learning, so the shrine is especially popular with students praying for success in exams and academic achievement.
Dazaifu Tenman-gū is built over the grave of Michizane, and the large shrine grounds cover over 12 square kilometers, including gardens, bridges, ponds, and several shrine structures. As with many major shrines in the country, the approach to the main entrance is lined with shops selling souvenirs and specialty sweets, always popular with visitors.
Michizane was especially fond of ume (Asian plum) trees, and there are as many as 6000 of them on the grounds of Dazaifu Tenman-gū. One particular tree, the Tobiume “flying plum tree”, stands to the right of the honden main shrine hall – legend has it that Michizane yearned so much for this tree that it uprooted itself from Kyoto and flew to Dazaifu Tenman-gū. When we visited the ume trees were starting to come into full bloom, their white and pink flowers signalling the welcome arrival of spring.