Day Trip to Dazaifu Tenmangu Shrine from Central Fukuoka

Planning how to spend your time while in Fukuoka? A trip to Dazaifu Tenmangu Shrine is a must!

Not only are the grounds beautiful and filled with other smaller shrines, but the area is easy to access by train (only 40 minutes from the center of the city) and there is a fun shopping street filled with different foods to try.

Read to learn about Dazaifu Tenmangu Shrine and what you can do during your visit!

*The main sanctuary is currently undergoing its first major renovation in 124 years and will span three years. A temporary shrine has been erected in its place and features a small forest on the roof.

Temporary main shrine during renovation

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See what it’s like to visit Dazaifu Tenmangu Shrine!

To get to Dazaifu Tenmangu from central Fukuoka via train, take the Nishitetsu line from Nishitetsu Fukuoka Station in Tenjin or Nishitetsu Yakuin Station. There are express trains that go directly to Dazaifu Station without transfers. From Tenjin Station, the Express train takes about 40 minutes and costs ¥410 each way.

If you take a limited Express train, a transfer is necessary at Futsukaichi Station. The route is marked so follow the signs if you have to transfer.

After arriving and exiting Dazaifu Station, turn right to find the main street, Tenjinsama. This lively street has large stone torii gates leading up to the shrine as well as shops and restaurants on either side.

The most popular food to try here is a baked mochi treat called umegae mochi – a freshly grilled mochi rice cake filled with sweet red bean paste. In front of the windows, you can watch the workers expertly oil the grill plates, slap down mochi balls, and remove the freshly cooked sweets from the automated machine.

Order take-out from the store windows or head into a cafe to enjoy a more leisurely time.

Umegae mochi with tea

The outside is deliciously crispy while the insides, full of chewy mochi and sweet bean paste, are piping hot.

Dazaifu Tenmangu Shrine was built over the grave of Sugawara no Michizane, a man who became deified in Shinto as the God of learning. It is said that when Sugawara passed away, the oxen pulling the carriage of his remains abruptly laid down and refused to move.

Bronze ox with a shiny head at the shrine entrance

Since this time, oxen have become a symbolic part of the shrine and eleven bronze oxen called shingyu reside on the grounds. When you first enter the shrine, the largest ox statue greets you. Give its head a rub since it is believed that doing so will make you wiser.

Near the entrance of the shrine is a small temple called Komyozenji Temple. Walk up to the entrance of this temple and peer inside to see the art installation, “Really shiny stuff that doesn’t mean anything” by artist Ryan Gander.

Head towards the main sanctuary and cross the three bright vermillion bridges, each representing the past, present, and future. Below these bridges is a peaceful pond.

Taiko-bashi bridges and pond

At the entrance to the innermost grounds is the temizuya, where one purifies the body before entering by washing their hands with the running water.

Rinse your hands before entering

Next to the temizuya, is a statue of a kirin – a Chinese mythical creature with the head of a dragon and the body of a horse. This creature represents Sugawara no Michizane’s wisdom and magnificence.

Kirin statue

At the honden, or main sanctuary, line up to say your prayers. It is customary to give a small offering (5 or 10 yen coin), bow twice, clap twice, and then silently say your prayers and respects. Afterwards, a final bow is given.

Entrance to the main sanctuary

In the main sanctuary, you can buy small amulets and fortunes for future prosperity and good luck. Since this shrine is associated with education and wisdom, it is a popular destination for many students during exam time.

Buy charms and fortunes here

You can also purchase special wooden ema. These have colorful decorations on one side and blank spaces on the other for wishes and prayers to be written. Once written, the ema can be hung on display.

Past the main grounds is a path that leads into the hills, through a small forest, to Tenkai Inari Shrine. This small shrine is in a quiet section of the grounds and is surrounded by red and white banners and a row of vermillion tori gates.

Several restaurants line the main and side streets leading up to Dazaifu Tenmangu Shrine. At Sakadoya, you can eat on a tatami mat facing a beautiful Japanese garden.

The restaurant has a slightly awkward ordering system requiring you to select a table before placing an order at the cashier up front.

Lunch set: three colored dipping soba, tempura, soup, rice, and pickled veggies!

Here is the tri-colored soba dipping noodles and tempura lunch set. The pink noodles had a refreshing pickled plum taste, and the tempura complimented the cold noodles.

Many stores on the main street sell typical, trinkety souvenirs. For items with a bit more style and story, head to Kyushu Voice, a store that stocks locally-made goods including foodstuff and crafts. There is a cafe on the second floor.

If you want to try Fukouka specialty mentaiko (salted cod roe) goods, head to Fukutaro. Here you can have a mentaiko onigiri fresh off the grill, or buy mentiako-flavored senbei crackers from an assortment of different flavors.

You’ll know you’ve reached the matcha specialty store, Sawawa when you see the building painted bright green. This is a must-stop place for tea a matcha lovers. The matcha gelato is creamy and packed with flavor. Also on the menu are matcha latte floats, warabi braken starch mochi with matcha powder, and plenty of other merchandise.

Although a bit far from the main part of Dazaifu Tenmangu Shrine, Kamado Shrine is another neat place to visit especially during fall when the maple trees change colors. This shrine features a contemporary amulet center and is located at the foot of Mt. Homan, a popular, yet challenging climbing route.

On a seasonal note- there are over 6,000 plum trees throughout the shrine grounds that are in full bloom from mid-February to early March. The shrine is extremely popular to visit during this time.

The first plum blossoms just starting to open

Every year on January 7th, a blazing fire cuts through the evening darkness at Dazaifu Tenmangu Shrine.

Dazaifu Tenmangu Onisube Fire Festival - Fanning the Flames

A group of men dressed in colored robes lift massive fans to stoke a fire and send smoke into the air. Another group bashes into the walls of a wooden building to break it down. What is going on you ask? This is Fukuoka’s Onisube festival! Learn more about the festival here.

A trip to Dazaifu was a great excursion from central Fukuoka where you can learn a bit about Japan’s Shinto history and enjoy eating along the main street.

Want more ideas for what to do during your trip to Fukuoka? Check out these posts!

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