If you’ve spent some time in Tokyo, you might be familiar with the historic seaside city of Kamakura – filled with fascinating shrines, temples and traditional snack shops.
Well Dazaifu is often said to be the mini version of Kamakura in Fukuoka! We visited on a hot, summer Sunday in late August.
Located just outside of Fukuoka city, you can easily get to Dazaifu by train or bus from Tenjin or Hakata Station.
Dazaifu is most famous for Dazaifu Tenmangu Shrine. From the station, leading up to the shrine, you can enjoy a slow walk up the paved street lined with traditional craft shops, cafes and wagashi vendors. The famous traditional snack of Dazaifu is Umegae Mochi which is sweet red bean paste wrapped in mochi (rice cake), stamped with a plum blossom design and then flattened and grilled on either side. Whenever we visit traditional places we love to sample the mochi, and this was one of our favourites! So simple, but the grilled mochi is unique and addictive. Try it with green tea or plum soda in summer.
Dotted amongst the various mochi shops are some beautiful traditional craft stores. We picked up a few little pieces to take home: a very cute papier-mâché (Hariko) snake as one of us was born during the Year of the Snake, a beautiful set of plum washi paper and some amazing folklore postcards on handmade paper. You can also browse some very expense ceramics – we saw some ceramic dolls (ningyou) for around ¥1,500,000!
After walking up the craft street, you’ll soon come across the entrance to Dazaifu Tenmangu Shrine. This shrine is known as the place the Shinto God of Scholarship and Education now rests (Tenjin Sama). Originally this scholar, Sugawara no Michizane, was based in Kyoto in the late 800’s, but he was banished to Dazaifu when politics changed. It’s said that his favourite plum tree flew all the way from Kyoto to be with him. This is why you’ll see plum blossoms all over Dazaifu – it’s now the city’s official symbol!
After his death, a lot of misfortune fell upon the clan who exiled Sugawara, so they made sure to give him back his rank and position to appease his spirit. Dazaifu Tenmangu Shrine was built around his grave, which is marked by an ox.
These days the shrine is visited by students from all over Japan who come to pray for good luck in their exams.
The shrine grounds are really large and contain many buildings, museums, traditional cafes, wooded areas and resting spots. Don’t miss the two koi fish ponds and the lovely arched red bridge! Perfect for taking photos.
While we were visiting, there was a junior Sumo tournament and a Shinto ceremony at the main shrine building (honden). If you’re lucky you might catch an interesting event too!
From Hakata Station, take the Dazaifu Bus from the Bus Terminal (¥600 One way). It only has 4 stops and takes approx. 40 mins.