I recently blogged about our short stay in the fantastic city of Fukuoka, which also happens to be a great place to stay if you’re taking a few day trips around Kyushu. The small city of Dazaifu is just a short train ride from the city centre – and because this is Japan, the train is covered in cute decorations!
Dazaifu was founded in the 7th century and served as the administrative centre for Kyushu for more than 500 years. Perhaps surprisingly, it played an important role in Japan’s diplomatic relations, particularly with China and Korea, and a lot of visiting dignitaries stayed in Dazaifu when visiting Japan. Today, it is a small and pleasant city with some impressive temples and shrines.
The main attraction in Dazaifu is the impressive Tenmangu Shrine, which is dedicated to the spirit of Sugawara no Michizane, a scholar and politician of the Heian Period who was exiled to Dazaifu for political trickery. Scandalous! Today, though, he is deified as the god of learning, literature and calligraphy. There are a number of Tenmangu shrines around Japan but this is the head shrine, and unsurprisingly thousands of students taking school entrance exams visit every year.
The grounds of this shrine are well worth exploring properly. The pond near the entrance torii gates is in the shape of the Japanese kanji for ‘heart’. Also, keep an eye out for the legendary flying plum tree (tobiume) near the main hall! Supposedly, this tree flew from Kyoto to Dazaifu to accompany Michizan into exile. There are around 6,000 plum trees on the temple grounds and they’re usually in bloom from late February to mid-March.
Technically, this blog title is a bit misleading as we didn’t spend a full day in Dazaifu because we didn’t get there until the afternoon! If you’re in need of a matcha frappucino, you can visit the famous art-deco Starbucks building on the main street. We also stopped by a Samurai Warriors shop – a must-visit for any samurai/Sengoku era fans. I managed to restrict myself to buying just three things – including some Date Masamune boxers – before we returned to Fukuoka.
If you’re visiting for a full day, there are a few other places to visit in Dazaifu – in particular the Government office ruins, the national history museum and no shortage of lovely temples and shrines. This is a very chilled out city but is clearly a popular place to visit for the day!