This is a Shinto Shrine in Dazaifu in Fukuoka Prefecture. The shrine honors Michizane, deified as Tenjin, a gifted scholar who drew the ire of the aristocrats. Among them aristocrats is the Fujiwara clan who sent him into exile in the southern island of Kyushu. He died young at 57 and the story goes that when his dead body was carried by an ox, the beast stopped, knelt on an area that is now his burial site and shrine.

All around the shrine complex, there are brass statues of the ox, touched by many presumably for good luck.

Our guide mentioned that the shrine attracts the young crowd, mostly students, who pray there for blessings before an examination. Perhaps because Michizane/Tenjin was a scholar, those who pray to him appeal for scholarly or academic achievements. We were also lucky to find this cute child all dressed up for shichi-go-san, a rite of passage for little girls aged 3,5 and 7, and 3 and 5 for little boys. I remember seeing many “dolled-up” children in other temples in my earlier visits (in Nara and in Kyoto). Another rite is at age 20, deemed one’s passage into adulthood.

The water was muddy but it didn’t take away the charm off the vermilion-colored arched bridge. The fall colors are evident everywhere, as if bidding adieu before the winter season sets in. I did like the landscape of autumn hues blending in subtly with the greens, making for a dreamy background to the pond and other structures. Not autumn in full bloom, no fierce explosion of colors. More serene, more relaxing. More nostalgic, if you like.

There were also monks lining up a pedestrian path. (Thanks, Angel, for this photo) Unlike their orange-robed cousins in other Asian neighboring states, these monks looked more formal. They also accepted cash rather than food, which I think is more practical. And barefooted NOT too. If you ask me, their get-up from head to toe is a winner. Even the bowl (for alms) and basket look classy!

On the way in and out of the Shrine, the path is hemmed in by quaint little shops as well as restaurants. We had lunch in one. We were also amused by a more traditionally-themed Starbucks coffee shop, side by side with Japanese traditional stalls selling umegae mochi, the local specialty dumpling, along with matcha, kimono, ice cream, snacks, etc.

If you are based in Fukuoka, and only have time for one temple or shrine, go to Dazaifu. You need not be Japanese nor practice Shintoism to appreciate this place. And while there, rub that brass ox statue for good luck. You’d never know when you need it. 😊

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