This course introduces you to two of Dazaifu’s most iconic sites while getting a taste of the city. It starts with Dazaifu Tenmangu Shrine, one of Kyushu’s largest. After exploring the extensive grounds and soaking up the atmosphere, you head to Kamado Shrine at the base of Mt. Homan to delve into Dazaifu’s Shinto-Buddhist past.
This Dazaifu must-see is a sacred complex dedicated to Michizane Sugawara, the Shinto god of literature and learning. Founded in 905, branches spread across Japan over the centuries, evolving into one of its most extensive shrine networks. The intricately painted vermillion main hall standing today dates from 1591 and is an Important Cultural Property.
The shrine’s expansive grounds feature modern art installations, a treasure house worthy of the name and the Kyushu National Museum, where you can learn about the history of Kyushu as well as taking in some beautiful works of art. The 6000 plus plum trees planted throughout the shrine compound are particularly impressive when they come into bloom near the end of winter.
Originally dating from 673, Kamado Shrine stands at the peak of Mt. Homan, a sacred peak worshipped since ancient times, which people would climb to commune with the power of nature.
Today, the historic and the modern merge at the shrine’s chic building, where you can buy votive plaques called ema. Legend says the main goddess honoured at Kamado Shrine has the divine power of matchmaking. The faithful come to the shrine to write their wishes on the ema and leave them as prayers for love. Pick one up from the shop and try writing your own.
The shrine is an homage to contemporary art and architecture. Behind the beautifully designed shrine shop, there is an observation deck with views of the grounds and benches to take a leisurely breather. If your timing's right, don’t miss the profusion of cherry blossoms in the spring, or the spectacular display of colorful leaves in the fall.
If not too pushed for time, consider climbing Mt. Homan to explore the shrine’s upper sanctuary. You will be rewarded with an unrivalled vista across Dazaifu.