Tenman-Gu, Dazaifu

. 天神菅原道真伝説 Legends about Tenjin Sama .

Tenman-Gu in Dazaifu 大宰府の天満宮
Sugawara Michizane 菅原道真

Sugawara no Michizane

Michizane was born in Kyoto in 845 into a family of scholars and was heir to a long tradition of loyal service to the Emperor. He was a devoted scholar from his earliest years and at the tender age of five gazed at a plum tree in the family garden and composed this celebrated Waka:

"How beautiful the red plum blossom,
I wish to color my cheek with it."

By the age of eleven he was composing poetry in the Chinese style and using Chinese characters.
He went on to serve the Emperor as a trusted Minister of the Right, until he fell into disfavor and was exiled to Dazaifu, where he was known as Dazai Gonnosochi. Two years of his exile were spent at Enokisha (Enoki Shrine) about three kilometers west of Dazaifu Tenmangu. He died in the spring of 903, aged 59. The construction of the main shrine above his final resting place marked the beginning of Dazaifu Tenmangu.


The life story of Michizane is one of court intrigues, infighting and exile. His restless soul became a revengeful ghost spirit (goryoo, onryoo), of which I will tell you more below. He is also known for his love of the plum blossom and left many poems about the plum.
To appease his revengeful sould, the great shrine at Dazaifu was erected.

The Dazaifu Tenmangu is the first and most important of several hundreds of shrines built all over Japan and dedicated to the spirits of Sugawara Michizane, an influential scholar and politician of the Heian Period, who has been identified with Tenjin, the kami ("Shinto god") of education. His shrines are now visited by thousands of students before an examination to pray for success.

Since Michizane made the long journey from Kyoto to Dazaifu without encountering difficulties, he has also come to be revered as a protecting god of travel and traffic safety.

The bullfinch (uso) is believed to be Tenjin-sama's messenger.

Usokae うそ替え / 鷽替え exchanging carved bullfinches


Dazaifu Tenmangu is a shrine built over the grave of Michizane Sugawara venerated by the Japanese throughout the country as the Tenman-Tenjin (the deified spirit of Michizane), or the God of literature or calligraphy.

Michizane, who had been a high-ranking government officer, was demoted because of the slander and political chicanery of his rivals, the Fujiwara clan.

He endured a life of extreme hardship and misery in exile at Dazaifu, yet preserved his character continuing his scholarly studies and never developing the hatred for those who had exiled him. He died in 903 at the age of 59.

His funeral procession was a melancholy occasion, attended only by his faithful follower Yasuyuki Umasake and a few neighbors. The coffin was carried on a cow carriage led by Yasuyuki, according to the legend
the ox suddenly came to a halt (ushi 牛 ox, bull cow) and refused to budge despite threats and entreaties. The burial therefore took place on the spot, and this became the site of the Tenmangu's main shrine visited today by so many admirers.

Michizane is celebrated as a man, pure in heart and deed, and after his death he was deified and worshipped as a God.
source : www.dazaifutenmangu.or.jp

. Statue of the ox (ushi) at Yushima Tenmangu .

There are approximately 6,000 plum trees of 197 varieties in the vicinity of Tenmangu, reflecting Michizane's lifelong affection and regard for the trees and their blossoms.

Perhaps the most famous is the one to the right of HONDEN (main shrine). Known as TOBIUME (the flying plum tree), legend has it that after Michizane left Kyoto for a life in exile, this particular tree yearned so much for him that, uprooting himself, it flew to reunite with him in Dazaifu.

In early January each year, TOBIUME is always the very first tree to blossom, and the thousands of other trees quickly follow, producing an incredible sight when the Tenmangu is covered in small pink and white flowers.


The story of Chiyozakura Tenmangu 千代桜

In 901 AD Michizane Sugawara the Udai-jin (the Right Side Minister) was demoted to Dazaifu because of a false report circulated by Tokihira Fujiwara the Sa-daijin (the Left Side Minister) .
When Michizane Sugawara walked to Chikushi from Heian-kyo, it was a lovely spring day. Many of his subordinates gathered to say good bye to him and some asked him to take them with him. His party left Heian-kyo together.

Michizane Sugawara and his subordinates were very unhappy, One of his subordinates said to the rest that they cannot be unhappy forever and that they would have to do something to cheer him up. All his subordinates aroused themselves. When the party crossed the Katsura River and reached Terako, Michizane Sugawara found that a kilometer ahead the cherry trees in bloom in Nishi no oka.

He decided in his mind, 'I am going to say good-bye to Kyoto completely at that place.' On the hill, more than one hundred gorgeous cherry trees were in bloom and cherry blossom seemed to completely cover the sky. He stopped and stared through the dropping flowers to the capital of Kyoto. His subordinates guessed Michizane Sugawara's feelings and they all cried for him.
The people who were living in the village where Michizane Sugawara's party stopped also cried for him.

After Michizane Sugawara left the villagers felt sorry for him because he did not want to leave Kyoto. They decided to build Tenmangu to pass his knowledge to the children. It is called 'Chiyozakura Tenmangu' and the cherry is called 'Tenjin no sakura (Tenjin cherry)'.
When the flowers start to drop they always blow on the wind to the south towards Kyoto because of Michizane Sugawara's feelings.


Another famous shrine was build in Kyoto itself, to appease the vengeful soul, since many disasters had befallen the city after the death of Michizane.

Kitano Tenmangu in Kyoto 北野天満宮
This shrine enshrines Michizane Sugawara , who because of his great learning during his lifetime is worshipped as the patron of learning. Michizane was first especially favored by Emperor Uda, who bestowed great trust in governmental affairs upon him. But later he was exiled to Kyushu because of slander and died in exile in 903. After his death, severe earth-quakes and thunderstorms did constant damage in the home provinces, and it was thought commonly that these were the result of his wrath. The Imperial Court granted him the post-humous title of Karai TenJin, or God of Fire and Thunder ; because of the increasingly large number of his slanderers and their families who met with unexpected disaster, his power was more and more feared by the Court and the common people.

The process of divinization of Michizane was greatly assisted by sympathy with his misfortune of having died in exile,by admiration for his unchanging spirit of loyal service,by the mute judgment of the masses against their rulers,and by the social unrest caused by the ever-continuing disasters. Because of the prophe-cies spoken in 942 by Tajihi-no-Ayako, who lived in Nishi-no-kyo Shichijo, and in 947 by Taro-maru, a child of Hirano Yoshitane of Omi,a shrine was built in the present location and was known as Tenman Tenjin. In 959, the Udaijin (Minister of the Right) Fujiwara-no-Morosuke enlarged the buildings. On the fifth day of the eighth month of 987, the Kitano-matsuri was celebrated for the first time ; this festival continues to the present day.
In 1004, Emperor lchijo paid the shrine its first Imperial visit, and later the shrine was included, with the other great shrines such as Kamo and lwa-shimizu, in the numberof the great 22 shrines. The shrine was often the object of Imperial
visits, and the regents, shoguns, and common people of all ages since have paid it extraordinary reverence.

Its annual festival is August 4, and there are also very many special rites connected with literary pursuits and agriculture. A part of the present Honden, or Main Shrine, was built in 1607 by Toyotomi Hideyori. Both the Honden and Haiden have the irimoya-zukri style of roof, and there is a stone room between the two buildings. To the West and East of the Haiden are Gaku-no-ma, or Music Chambers' ; the roofs of these bulldlngs are all united Into one roof this style of architecture is called yatsu-mune-zukuri or gongen-zukuri.
The buildings are designated as important cultural properties, and are representative examples of Momoyama architecture. The many plum trees in the shrine precincts are due to the fact that Michizane was fond of plum trees in his lifetime.

- quote -
Sankomon Gate 三光門 Gate of Three Lights
Also known as the Middle Gate, the Sanko Gate is an important cultural property said to have been constructed by Toyotomi Hideyori in 1607. There is a plaque on the gate attributed to the Emperor Gosai, and it is said that the gate got its name from three lights inscribed in the woodwork, representing the Sun, the Moon and a Star ("Sanko" literally means "three lights" in Japanese).
Another explanation has it that there is no star inscribed. This explanation is based on the story that in the Heian Period, when the Emperor prayed to the shrine in the north from the Daidaiiri Hall, the North Star was shining right over the Sanko Gate, so it was not inscribed in the gate itself.
If you go deeper into the shrine grounds through the Sanko Gate and the middle garden, you will see the Entrance Hall and the Main Hall of the shrine, where Michizane is enshrined. It is said that in 1607, Toyotomi Hideyori's father, Toyotomi Hideyoshi, left his son with a last wish, and thus he used the Main Hall building as his official office. The structure is a national treasure representing the imposing and gorgeous Momoyama Period culture with its characteristic "Hiwadabuki" style cypress bark roof, covering an amazing 1,650 m2.
- source : rohm-saijiki/kitanotenmangu-

hoshikake no Sankoomon 星欠けの三光門
The Gate of three lights without the Star!


Two clay bells 土鈴 with the Ox of Kitano Tenmangu

. Kyoto no dorei 京都の土鈴 clay bells from Kyoto .


observance kigo for the New Year

. Hatsu Tenjin 初天神 First visit to a Tenjin Shrine .

. Urajiro renga 裏白連歌
"Linked verse with white backside" .

Kitano no fudehajime sai 北野の筆始祭
first use of the brush ceremony at Kitano (Kyoto)

On January 2.

Children living nearby may come and practise their first brushstrokes in the hall and along the corridor.
With a prayer to become a skillful calligrapher.

. fude hajime 筆始(ふではじめ)first use of the brush .


observance kigo for early spring

Kitano natane goku 北野菜種御供 (きたのなたねごく)
ritual for rapeseed blossoms

Kitano baikasai 北野梅花祭(きたのばいかさい)Plum festival at Kitano
baika goku 梅花御供(ばいかごく)
Tenjin goki 天神御忌(てんじんごき)memorial day of Tenjin
Michisane ki 道真忌(みちざねき) memorial day of Michizane

February 25
Yellow rapeseed blossoms are offered to the deity. Michizane offered them when there were no plum blossons at this time of year.
Lately plum blossoms are also offered.
Many stalls along the river Kamiyagawa 紙屋川 sell food and drink, but sometimes it snows on this day.

. Rapeseed blossoms (na no hana, nanohana 菜の花) .


observance kigo for late summer

Tenma matsuri 天満祭 (てんままつり)
Tenman festival

. . . . . Tenjin matsuri 天神祭(てんじんまつり)

funamatsuri 船祭(ふなまつり)boat festival
tenman oharai 天満御祓(てんまのおはらい)Tenman purification
hokonagashi no shinji 鉾流の神事(ほこながしのしんじ) ritual of floats
kawatogyo 川渡御(かわとぎょ)"crossing the river"
dondokobune どんどこ舟(どんどこぶね)Dondoko boat
kenchabune 献茶舟(けんちゃぶね) boat for ritual tea ceremony
omukae ningyoo 御迎人形(おむかえにんぎょう)"welcoming the dolls"

July 24 at Osaka Tenmangu

source : pub.ne.jp/satuki73

Chinzei Hachiroo 鎮西八郎  (Minamoto no Tametoki 源為朝)
Sasaki Takatsuna 佐々木高綱 (? - 1214)
Abe Yasuna 安倍保名 
Susano-O no Mikoto素盞鳴尊

The 14 dolls of famous people are quite old, dating from 1690.
They are usually kept as treasures in the shrine.

Tenjin Matsuri Festival
Among the various festivals in Osaka, Tenjin Matsuri Festival in Osaka is the most colorful representative summer festival of the region. The Tenjin Matsuri Festival in Osaka is one of Japan's three major festivals with the other duo being the Kanda Matsuri in Tokyo and the Gion Matsuri in Kyoto. Tenjin Matsuri Festival in Osaka is also the world's greatest boat festival. It is held annually from July 24th to July 25th.

The origins of Tenjin Matsuri Festival in Osaka can be traced back to a festival in the Osaka - Tenman-gu Shrine . During Tenman-gu Shrine local people first flew a halberd as part of a purification ceremony from Shato no Hama. Tenjin Matsuri Festival in Osaka began in 951.

Tenjin Matsuri Festival in Osaka also celebrates Tenjin, the deification of courtier and scholar-poet Sugawara Michizane (845-903 AD), who fell victim of political intrigue and died bitterly in exile. During the Edo Period when Osaka was considered the marketplace of Japan, Tenjin Matsuri Festival in Osaka became the main summer event in the Water Metropolis, and remains so today. With the passage of time however, Tenjin Matsuri Festival in Osaka has now become an event synonymous with Osaka, the Japanese city of water.

Tenjin Matsuri Festival in Osaka is held to drive out the evil sprits of summer and as a requiem for the soul of Sugawara-no-Michizane, a leading Court scholar of the Heian era (AD 794 - 1185). Tenjin Matsuri Festival in Osaka has been celebrated for over 1000 years. A variety of events are organized as part of the Tenjin Matsuri Festival in Osaka . This is one festival you do not want to miss!

The features of Tenjin Matsuri Festival in Osaka include:

•Traditional Japanese performing arts such as kagura music (performed when paying homage to gods) and bunraku theatrical performances using puppets are performed in all parts of the city.

•A land procession, which is a parade of some 3,000 people dressed in the imperial-court style of the 8th-12th Centuries marching beside portable shrines also takes place.

There is a boat procession, when the same 3,000 people board some 100 boats from the approach of the Tenmabashi Bridge and sail upstream.

At dusk, the boats are lit up with fires. They are ignited to illuminate the surroundings for patrolling or fishing. They are reflected on the river surface, creating an exquisite view.

•Pavilions are set up on the riverbanks. The citizens and tourists enjoy the cool evening air as they cheer at the Tenjin Matsuri Hono Hanabi fireworks display taking place at the same time.

•The ceremony closes with the Osaka-style handclapping when the crowd of 3,000 returns to the Tenman Shrine. The rhythmical handclaps and shouts evoke an air of the ideal Osaka iki (stylish and charming) lifestyle held by the townspeople in the Edo Period; which is quite distinct from Tokyo-style iki.

Tenjin Matsuri Festival in Osaka is just the place to visit if you want to get to know more about Osaka. This event, also known as the festival of fire and water due to its beautiful combination of bonfires, lanterns and fireworks reflecting upon Okawa River's surface, is a wonderful way to experience
source : www.asiarooms.com

Tenmansai Tairo ni aishi hito mo ari

Tenman Festival -
some people come to meet
poet Tairo

. Haiku Poet Yoshiwake Tairo 吉分大魯 .
(1730 - 1778) Student of Buson

. shiraume ya kitano no chaya ni sumaitori .

Yosa Buson visiting Kitano Tenmangu 北野天満宮 - Kyoto .


Tenjin Shrines 天神
Deceased individuals are sometimes deified and thereafter worshipped as Tenjin (lit. "heavenly spirit" or "heavenly god"). Shrines devoted to Michizane Sugawara 菅原道真 (845 - 903 AD) and to Emperor Meiji 明治天皇 (1852 - 1912 AD) are the two most prominent examples of Tenjin shrines.
Michizane (courtier in the Heian period) was deified after death, for his demise was followed shortly by a plague in Kyoto, said to be his revenge for being exiled. Michizane is the patron deity of scholarship, learning, and calligraphy. Every year on the 2nd of January, students go to his shrines to ask for help in the tough school entrance exams or to offer their first calligraphy of the year.

Egara Tenjin 荏柄天神 (in Kamakura) is one of the three most revered Tenjin Shrines in Japan, and among the three largest. The other two are Dazaifu Tenmangū 大宰府天満宮 (near Fukuoka; Dazaifu is where Michizane was exiled), and Kitano Tenjin 北野天神 in Kyoto (Michizane's birthplace). Of a total of about 90,000 Shinto shrines in Japan, there are about 11,000 Tenjin or Tenmangū shrines (editor: must find source of number).

Around January 15 each year, shrine decorations, talismans, and other shrine ornaments used during the local New Year Holidays are gathered together and burned in bonfires. They are typically pilled onto bamboo, tree branches, and straw, and set on fire to wish for good health and a rich harvest in the coming year. At these events, children throw their calligraphy into the bonfires -- and if it flies high into the sky, it means they will become good at calligraphy.
source : - Mark Schumacher


Kitano matsuri 北野祭 (きたのまつり) Kitano Festival
kigo for early autumn

. . . CLICK here for Photos !


kigo for mid-autumn

Shuushi sai 愁思祭 しゅうしさい Shushi Memorial Festival
On the 10th day of the 9th lunar month, now October 10)
Dazaifu, Tenmangu.

One day after the Chrysanthemum festival on September 9 Michizane had been requested by Daigo Tenno 醍醐天皇 to write poems in rememberance of "sad and pittyful things" (shuushi).

Read the poems here:
source : www.dazaifutenmangu.or.jp

Dazaifu matsuri 大宰府祭 (だざいふまつり) Dazaifu festival

Dazaifu Tenmanguu matsuri 大宰府天満宮祭(だざいふてんまんぐうまつり)
September 21 till 25

Shinkoshiki Taisai -Procession of Gods Festival

is an autumn festival that occurs every year from September 21 to 25 in order to seek Sugawara Michizane’s divine virtues and give thanks to the gods for an abundant crop. Beginning in 1101, the festival’s highlight is the Massive Procession that centers around and fans out from a portable shrine in which the gods ride. The portable shrine begins its journey at 8pm on the 22nd and makes its way back starting at 3pm the next day. Shinto priests and volunteers wearing historical clothing slowly proceed along the 2km (1.2 mile) road from Daizfu Tenmangu Shrine to Enoki Shrine 榎社 (formerly Enoki Temple), taking two hours to do so.
This scene from a bygone era seems to vividly come to life in the goregous Heiankyo (the former capital, Kyoto) style!

Another ceremony is held in which visitors can pray for various favors by burning votive candles lit with a sacred flame around Shinji Pond. When 1,000 candles have been lit with the sacred flame, the shrine maidens perform musical and dance pieces such as Yukyu no Mai performance on the acquatic stage as the candlelight that brightens the still darkness reflects off the surface of the pond, inviting the world of the serious and profound.
source : www.crossroadfukuoka.jp


kigo for mid-winter

shimai tenjin 終天神 (しまいてんじん)
last visit to a Tenjin shrine

kigo for late winter

Gojoo tenjin mairi 五条天神参 (ごじょうてんじんまいり)
visiting Gojo-Tenjin, Ueno, Tokyo

. . . CLICK here for Photos !


Egara Tenjin Shrine in Kamakura

Ume (Japanese apricot) flowers!
Don't forget the springtime
even though your master is no longer with you.
When an easterly wind blows,
be sure to send me your sweet fragrance.


Japanese nobilities those days had a great fondness for plum blossoms and its beauty was widely featured in classical art and poetry. Indeed, Man-yoshu, an anthology of Japanese poetry written in fifth to eighth century, contains 104 poems featuring plum blossoms, as against only 38 for cherry.

Because of this tanka, plum trees are like the symbol of Tenjin shrines and almost all of them have the trees planted at their shrine grounds. Here in Egara, a pair of red and white plum trees are standing in front of the main hall; red one on the right and white one on the left. The red one is said to bloom in late January, earliest in Kamakura. Altogether, about 40 plum trees are planted. The first flower-viewing ceremony of the year in Kamakura takes place right here. On the door of the main hall, the Shrine's emblem with five circles appears designed after the ume blossoms. The five circles and lines in center depict round petals and stamens of the flower.

Read more about this shrine here:

Read about the Plum and Haiku Plum (ume)


Waka from Shrine Tamukeyama Hachimangu

At the present time,
Since I could bring no offering,
See Mount Tamuke!
Here are brocades of red leaves,
As a tribute to the gods.


The vengeful spirits, goryoo, onryoo 御霊、怨霊

In Japanese religion, they are the vengeful spirits of the dead. In the Heian period (AD 794–1185) goryo were generally considered to be spirits of nobility who had died as a result of political intrigue and who, because of their ill will for the living, brought about natural disasters, diseases, and wars. The identities of the goryo were determined by divination or necromancy.

Here is a long and scholarly essay about these vengeful spirits and the illnesses of humans suffering from their revenge.

The spiritual beings that work in order to weaken the immune system so that germs and other harmful agents can break through and cause diseases, can broadly be divided into two distinct categories. On the one hand, there are the spirits with whom one has a direct relationship, on the other hand there are the spirits with whom no such relationship originally exists.

Another long essay about the concept of spirits of the dead in different Buddhist sects.
Behind this popular practice of the memorial service lies a traditionalbelief in, or fear of, the spirits of the dead, whose presence is stillnear. They are vengeful spirits, who must be soothed by the regularoffering of prayers or by those who have special spiritual power.


Daruma Library:

. Goryoo Matsuri 御霊祭 Goryo Festival  
for the eight vengeful souls, at shrine Goryo Jinja in Kyoto.
Sudo Tenno 崇道天皇 and his son,
Iyo Shinno 伊予親王.
his mother, Fujiwara Fujin, 藤原婦人
Fujiwara Hirotsugu, 藤原広嗣
Tachibana Hayanari, 橘逸勢
Bunya no Miyata Maro 文室宮田麻呂
Kibi no Makibi 吉備真備
Sugawara Michizane 菅原道真

. . . . .

. Victims in Japanese religion and art  


Here is the information that started my search about Michizane. In the Japan Times this morning, December 15, was an article about the famous Bunraku play.

.. .. .. .. .. Servants of too many masters

The Tokyo National Theater is currently showing a three-hour bunraku performance drawn from the play "Sugawara Denju Tenarai Kagami" (literally translated as: "Sugawara Certifies a Disowned Disciple to Perpetuate His Line of Calligraphy"), written by Takeda Izumo and collaborators in 1746.

"Sugawara Denju Tenarai Kagami" centers on the life of Sugawara Michizane (845-903), and his feud with Fujiwara Shihei. Through the machinations of Shihei, Michizane was exiled to Dazaifu in Kyushu, where he died.

This Machiavellian historical tale is also combined with the story of the lives of three triplets, born in Osaka just before the play was written. The three brothers, whose symbolic names are taken from ume (plum) and matsu (pine) and sakura (cherry), trees, have strikingly different characters and appearances. They are all three servants to the courtiers: Umeomaru serves Michizane; Matsuomaru works for Michizane's mortal enemy, Shihei; and Sakuramaru, a humble oxherd, is in the service of Prince Tokiyo, younger brother of the emperor. The political rivalries of their masters lead to passionate rivalry between the brothers. This partial version of the play focuses on the story of Sakuramaru.

The play opens with an idyllic outing near the Kamo Shrine in Kyoto. Sakuramaru and his wife, Yae, arrange a meeting between Prince Tokiyo and Michizane's beautiful foster daughter Kariyahime. Kariyahime meets Prince Tokiyo but their assignation is spotted by Minister Shihei's spy and the young lovers have to flee. Suspected of having treasonous intentions against the throne, Michizane is exiled to northern Kyushu. Determined to take revenge on Minister Shihei for plotting the downfall of Michizane, one day Umeomaru and Sakuramaru try to attack and kill Shihei on his visit to the Yoshida Shrine, but they are blocked by their own brother Matsuomaru, Shihei's servant, and forced to retreat. The sibling feud continues when the three brothers are invited back to their father Shiratayu's house for his 70th birthday.

When Umeomaru and Matsuomaru finally arrive in Shiratayu's absence, they resume their quarrel, and while wrestling in the garden, fall against the cherry tree. Shiratayu finds the broken cherry tree on his return and has a premonition of the imminent death of Sakuramaru. The old man then disowns Matsuomaru because he works for Shihei and dismisses Umeomaru.

When the two brothers depart, Sakuramaru appears from inside the house wearing a black kimono, in a style far too graceful for his position as an oxherd. He has resolved to commit seppuku as a way of taking responsibility for being the cause of Michizane's exile. Sakuramaru stabs himself with a dagger, which has been handed to him by his father. As he expires, the old man beats a hand bell madly, to help his son die in peace.

Read the rest about the puppeteer Yoshida Kazuo here:


kono ume ni ushi mo hatsune to nakitsu beshi

to this plum tree
even the ox might want to shout
his first moo . ..

Matsuo Basho 松尾芭蕉 
He and Sodo visiting Yushima Tenmangu 湯島天満宮
. - Yamaguchi Sodoo, Sodô 山口素堂 Yamaguchi Sodo - .


. hatsu u mairi 、初卯詣(はつうまいり)visiting a shrine for the rabbit festival  
Festival at all Tenmangu shrines in memory of Sugawara Michizane, who is said to have died on the day of the rabbit, hour of the rabbit.

. Arima Tenjinsha 有馬天神社 .
At Arima Onsen, Hyogo 有馬温泉

. Domyoji Tenmangu 道明寺天満宮 Osaka  
festivals as kigo

. Tsuruoka Tenmangu Sai
Tsuruoka Tenmangu Festival

bakemono matsuri 化物祭 (ばけものまつり)
monster festival

. Tsunashiki Tenmangu Shrine 綱敷天満宮 .
Michizane staying at Suma-Ura, Kobe 須磨浦

. Umezono Migawari Tenmangu Shrine 梅園身代り天満宮 .
Nagasaki, Maruyama

. Yase Tenmangu 八瀬天満宮 Kyoto

. Yushima Tenjin 湯島天神 Tokyo Yushiman Tenmangu

. Japanese Ghosts and evil spirits
akuryoo 悪霊 evil spirit

. Tenjin Sama 天神さま a popular folk toy .

. Usokae うそ替え exchanging bullfinches .
kaemono 替え物 exchanging offerings

. Somin Shoorai Fu 蘇民将来符 Somin Shorai amulet .

source : hehualu2000
北野天神縁起絵 Kitano Tenmangu Emaki


ume saku ya Tenjinkyoo o naku suzume

plums are blossoming -
the Tenjin sutra
sung by a sparrow

Tr. Gabi Greve

uguisu no mai-asa kitano mairi kana

this nightingale
makes a pilgrimage to Kitano shrine
every morning . . .

. Kobayashi Issa 小林一茶 in Edo .


. Oosu Kannon 大須観音 Osu Kannon Nagoya .

第七百七十七話「天満宮」- Tenman Gu
. Tono Jisha Meguri 遠野寺社巡り  temples and shrines in Tono, Iwate .

. - yookai, yōkai 妖怪 Yokai ghosts and monsters - Introduction - .
the Kappapedia


. 天神菅原道真伝説 Legends about Tenjin Sama .




Koya San in Wakayama


Koya San in Wakayama 高野山 和歌山県

Koya san is an important place in the history of Buddhism in Japan.
I visited there many years ago and will write about that unique experience later.

At the end of this page is my short essay on the
Light Offerings (toomyoo kuyoo 灯明供養).

Look at my Photo Album of Koya-San
... Photo Album Koya San

Read my Haiku about Koya-San
. Gabi visiting Koya San .

こうやくん Koya-Kun, the mascot of the temple complex.

Koyasan Sohonzan Kongobuji (金剛峯寺 Kongoobuji)
- Homepage of the temple
- source : www.koyasan.or.jp/english


For a general overview of Mt. Koya and Kukai (Kobo Daishi)
by Mark Schumacher:


Sacred Mountain for Shingon Sect of Esoteric Buddhism. A mountain monastery called Kongobuji was established here in 816 AD by Kukai (aka Kobo Daishi, 774 - 835 AD, founder of Japan's Shingon Sect). Kukai is also intimately associated with the Pilgrimage to the 88 Holy Sites of Shikoku. Since its founding until today, Kongobuji has served as the center of Shingon Buddhism in Japan, and Mt. Koya remains one of modern Japan's most popular pilgrimage sites. The monastery is a vast repository of Buddhist art, especially mandalas, and home to a large number of graves. Dainichi Nyorai and Fudo Myo-o are two of the sect's most revered deities. Kobo Daishi's name literally means "great teacher of Buddhism." He is also credited with creating Japan's hiragana syllabary.

And the Pilgrimages (Shikoku Henro and more):

.. .. .. . . . . . . . ........ . Foreign Pilgrims at Koya San
Muslims have Mecca, Christians have Bethlehem, and Jews have Jerusalem. Travel 90 minutes by train from Osaka to Wakayama Prefecture and you will reach Koya-san, where thousands of Japanese descend annually in the hope that they will be touched by the spirit of Kobo Daishi, the Buddhist saint whose tomb lies at the top of the mountain.


The Japan Times: Dec. 10, 2004
(no longer availabel online)

Getting holy in Wakayama

Since ancient times, pilgrims have ventured into heavily forested mountains in Wakayama Prefecture to visit Koyasan, the headquarters of the Shingon sect of esoteric Buddhism. This is regarded as one of the most sacred places in Japan, lying in an alpine basin at an altitude of about 800 meters, and it attracts more than 1 million worshippers and tourists every year.

Admiring the awe-inspiring monastic buildings and outstanding natural beauty there, you will see why Koyasan is loved by so many people and why it was added to UNESCO's World Heritage List last July.

Legend has it that more than a thousand years ago -- at a port in Ningbo, China -- Kukai (later to be known as Kobo Daishi 空海、弘法大師) threw a sankosho (a symbolic Buddhist pestle), which had been given to him by his master Keika, into the sky toward the east, with a wish that it would land in the ideal place for him to begin preaching Shingon Buddhism. On returning to Japan, Kukai looked for the sankosho and finally found it hanging on a pine tree in Koyasan in the year 816. After more than 1,200 years, the pine tree is still revered by monks and visited by many tourists daily.

The pine tree has a bundle of three needle-shaped leaves, just like the sankosho, which has three prongs at each end. The tree stands tall in front of Konpon Daito, a 48.5-meter gorgeously colored pagoda situated in Danjo Garan, an area that hosts many seminaries for esoteric practices. In Garan, the chances are fairly high that you will come across ascetic monks reciting Buddhist sutras.

Across a large parking lot from Danjo Garan is Kongobuji, which is the official headquarters of some 3,600 Shingon Buddhist temples in Japan. The original temple of Kongobuji was built by Toyotomi Hideyoshi (1537-1598) in memory of his mother.
The gorgeous paintings on sliding doors in the temple's rooms must be seen. The paintings include those from the famous Kano painting school from the Edo Period (1603-1867). The doors in the Yanaginoma (Willow Room) are decorated with the painter Kano Tansai's depictions of willow trees. Warrior Toyotomi Hidetsugu (1568-1595), who was exiled to Koyasan on orders from his uncle Hideyoshi, committed seppuku (ritual suicide) in this room.

Beautiful pink rhododendron are in full bloom in the inner-court area in early summer, (Photo from Gabi Greve)

and you can also admire Japan's largest rock garden, which measures 2,340 sq. meters. The shape of the rocks represents a pair of dragons emerging from a mass of clouds.
Another must-see spot in Koyasan is the Okunoin Cemetery, which is in dense forest to the east of the city. Inside the cemetery is Kobo Daishi Gobyo, a mausoleum where Kobo Daishi -- Kukai's posthumous honorific name -- rests in eternal meditation.

Lining the 2-km approach are some 300,000 tombstones, including those of historically important figures, such as Oda Nobunaga and Takeda Shingen, both feudal warlords from the Sengoku Period (1467-1568).

The path toward the mausoleum is shrouded by hundreds-of-years-old giant cedar trees, which add to the tranquil spirit of the cemetery. Okunoin's tallest tombstone -- at 10 meters high -- marks the grave built for the wife of Tokugawa Hidetada (1579-1632), the second Tokugawa shogun, and it is believed that it took as long as three years to build it.

The interior of Torodo (the Lantern Hall, tooroo doo 灯篭堂),
located at the end of the approach, just short of Gobyo (go-byoo), is illuminated by about 20,000 lanterns of various sizes. You can take a different route to leave, heading toward the Nakanohashi parking lot. You will see modern gravestones on this path, including corporate graves such as a coffee cup-shaped stone for UCC Ueshima Coffee Co. or a television-shaped one for Sharp Corp. But the strangest gravestone must be the one built by a termite exterminator to console the spirits of white ants. It says "White Ants. Rest in Peace." (see below)

If you want to stay here, then lodging is available at 53 of the 117 temples in the Koyasan Basin. At such shukubo, tourists can enjoy the traditional vegetarian diet of monks. Goma-dofu (sesame bean curd) and Koya-dofu (freeze-dried bean curd), both local specialties, are especially worth a try. Guests can also experience Ajikan meditation at some shukubo temples. Ajikan is a meditation method of Shingon Buddhism, practiced in a leg-folded sitting position. When checking out shukubo Web sites, you might be surprised about the temples' commercial approach, as one would like to believe that such a spiritual place as Koyasan should avoid such influences.
But today's shukubo management dates back to the Nanboku-cho Period (1336-1392) or Muromachi Period (1392-1573), at a time when a huge number of pilgrims were traveling to Koyasan.
Around 1400, the Koyasan management prohibited shukubo temples from aggressively touting pilgrims from the Kyushu and Chugoku regions by operating checkpoints (sekisho). Some shukubo temples were using bribes to attract pilgrims.
"This illustrates a severe battle among Koyasan temples over regional supremacy at that time," said Yasunori Koyama, a professor at Tezukayama University who specializes in Japanese medieval history. "Apparently, shukubo management has been a huge financial resource for Koyasan."
Some shukubo temples also used to negotiate to decide which shukubo would accommodate which noble or shogun family, and such rights were often traded between temples. The tradition still remains at some shukubo, according to Koyama.

Koyasan is a unique Buddhist town. For those who love esoteric Buddhism (mikkyo), visiting this place is a must. For those who don't know much about it, this is still well worth a visit. And Koyasan is just two hours by train from central Osaka.

A trip in Koyasan will be twice as much fun with a local guide. If you are interested in a guided tour, contact the Koyasan Tourist Association at (0736) 56-2616 or the Wakayama Interpreter Volunteer Group at (0736) 73-5606. The group offers a foreign-language guide service for about 3,000 yen (transportation expense for the guide.)


Graves of famous Japanese at Koya San

It takes a while to load, but you get a good impression of the walk in the woods along the path to the Oku no In, innermost sanctuary.

places to stay in the Temple Grounds:Shukuboo

A gravestone for the souls of white ants, killed by pesticide.
Erected by the company that produces the pesticide (to placate their own soul???)

The white ants are great enemies of the wooden Japanese homes. They start eating the foundation or the roof beams and ruin it all, making it unsafe to stay in the house. When you detect them (usually you hear them gnawing on a quiet night) you have to inform the authorities, because your neighbour's home is in danger too. The official exterminators come to take care of the problem. And to placate their soul, I guess, they erected this stone at the All Japanese Graveyard:

.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. . . . . yasuraka ni nemure - rest in peace


.. .. .. .. .. .. .. Oku no In 奥の院

The most holy place in Koya San is the Innermost Temple, where Kobo Daishi is sitting in his eternal rest.
In front of his grave-temple is the Hall of the Lamps ,Tooroo-doo (the Lantern Hal l灯篭堂).

You can rent a lantern for a period of time as a religious service to a lost soul or relative. For three days you pay 1000 yen, for a whole year you have to deposit around 500 Dollars. The ceiling of the hall is full with these lamps and when you climb down, rows and rows of lanterns are hanging there, with the name of the deceased and the time until it is still burning. Needless to say, the hall is always quite warm with these many natural flames.
. . . CLICK here for Photos !

Approach to the Oku no In, more pictures

Lantern Festival at the Lantern Hall

.. .. .. .. .. Inside the Lantern Hall

Two sacred fires, which reportedly have been burning since the 11th century, are kept safely inside. The mausoleum itself is behind the Lantern Hall. Buy a white candle, light it, and wish for anything you want. Then sit back and watch respectfully as Buddhists come to chant and pay respects to one of Japan's greatest Buddhist leaders.


Offerings of Light、toomyoo kuyoo 灯明供養

The offering of Light, together with Incense, Flowers, Water and other things to please the deities is a custom coming from India whith the spread of Buddhism. Toomyoo (灯明), in Sanskrit “diipa”. First, oil from plants was used, later candles and nowadays of course electric lights are used.

The symbolism of light in the Buddhist context is to “tear away the darkness of illusion through the all-penetrating light of the Buddha”. The Buddha light brings wisdom and compassion to all humankind. At the end of your life, it will lead you to the paradise in the west.

The well-known “Hall of Lanterns” (see above) at Mt. Koya is a place for the offering of light.
Legend knows that the Monk Kishin in 1016 saw a bright light on the moss in front of the mausoleum of Kuukai one night. So he decided to put up a candle at this place and this first light of his candle has never seized to burn, a never-ending light (kiezu no toomyoo 消えずの灯明) until today.

In Esoteric Buddhism there are special Bodhisattvas for the Offerings (kuyoo bosatsu 供養菩薩), one of them is the one for light offerings, Kongootoo Bosatsu (金剛灯菩薩). Some temples have a “never-eding light” (jooyatoo じょうやとう) 
(mujintoo 無尽灯). After a Buddhist burrial it is customary to keep this light up for 49 days.

There are many rituals where Light Offerings play an important part at the temples, for example the “festival of ten thousand lights” (mandoo-e 万灯会) at the Temple Toodai-ji on August 15, during the O-Bon Festival period. The more than 2500 graves around the temple are all lit with candles.

. . . CLICK here for Photos !

Maybe the many fire festivals, hi-matsuri 火祭り are also connected to this belief in the offering of light to the deities.

On the altar, the most simple arrangement of tools is the
“three objects” mitsu gusoku三具足、an incense burner, a candle holder and a flower vase.


Next we have the “four objects” yotsu gusoku 四具足with two flower vases, one on each side. This constellation is very seldom。

Five objects, go gusoku 五具足, is a usage for large ceremonies. Two candle holders at both sides. Two vases next and one incense burner in the middle.


The Lotus Sutra, Hokke-kyoo 法華経、describes various deities as Bosatsu concerned with light offerings.

Niman Toomyoobutsu二萬燈明仏
Sanman Toomyoobutsu三萬燈明仏
Nichi-gatsu Toomyoobutsu日月燈明仏, the Sun and Moon Light Offering Buddhas
Myookoo Bosatsu妙光菩薩

They all belong to a grouping of “secret Buddhas for 30 days” (sanjuunichi hibutsu 三十日秘仏).

Buddha of Burning Light,
Dapankara, Dipankara (Dpankara) Buddha大和竭羅

Megha, a young disciple of Brahmanism, was given a prophecy by Dpankara Buddha that he would become Buddha, an enlightened one, in the next world. The original word for 燃燈 is Dpankara, which is also translated as 定光 or 錠光 in Chinese. This tale is generally called the Dpankara jataka.

Read more about this Buddha here:

Dipankara, the Buddha of Fixed Light

The Dipankara Buddha is said to predate the historical Buddha in a world cycle long past and to have foretold his coming. He is sometimes equated with Adibuddha, the "original Buddha." Since about the 17th century his cult has been popular with Nepalese Buddhists who consider him a protector of merchants and associate him with alms-giving. One of Dipankara's local names, the "Samyak god", refers to an alms-giving festival where images such as this one are displayed, as well as images with wooden or basketry bodies and metal heads and hands. Basketry images consist of a large, hollow torso covered with clothing and ornaments capable of concealing a man who animates it in procession.

.. .. .. .. ..

The Celestial Tejaprabha Buddha of Bright Light and the five planets,
Cave 17, Dunhuang, ink and colours on silk

Copyright © The British Library Board

Cross-Currents in East Asian Buddhism and Buddhist Art Conference Abstracts


This concludes my excursion to the world of Light Offerings.

To learn more about light and stone lanterns, read Mark Schumacher here:


enten no sora utsukushi ya Kooyasan

the blazing sky
is so beautiful -
Mount Koya Monastery

Takahama Kyoshi 虚子
Tr. Gabi Greve

. enten - blazing sky and haiku


For a little extra joy, look at my photo album with great pictures of Koya-San
. Koya San, Photoalbum .

Read some of my haiku about Koya-San
Koya-san in Wakayama

Light offerings are also many kigo for Haiku.
... Light offerings ...





Yoyogi Hachimangu, Tokyo

. Famous Places and Powerspots of Edo .

Yoyogi Hachimangu 代々木八幡宮
Yoyogi is a district of Tokyo, northern part of Shibuya.

. . . CLICK here for Photos !

. WKD : Hachiman Shrines and their festivals .

- - - - -

source : tan-tokyo.doorblog.jp
Yoyogi Shusse Inari 代々木出世稲荷 for a good career

Career with Daruma 出世だるま
. Shusse Inari Shrines 出世稲荷神社 .


It's a stroll in a park to find the old Yoyogi

The Japan Times: Dec. 3, 2004
Read the original to see the pictures.

The town of Shinjuku dates from the late 17th century, when a post-station was set up there on the Koshu-kaido on the northwestern edge of Edo (present-day Tokyo). To the south, Yoyogi was then mainly sparsely populated hills that rolled on as far as the eye could see.

Small rivers wound their way through these hills, supporting farming hamlets in the narrow valleys, while the uplands were dotted with the suburban estates of daimyo lords.
The accompanying 1830s woodblock print by Hasegawa Settan, titled "Yoyogi Hachiman-gu," depicts a Shinto shrine on a hill, with the Udagawa River running below.

Dedicated to Hachiman, a martial god, the shrine is said to have been founded in 1212 -- by a warrior of the Genji Clan -- as a branch of the great Tsurugaoka Hachiman-gu in Kamakura. As time passed, however, Hachiman came to be worshipped as a local deity in Yoyogi.

The Udagawa River is a tributary of the Shibuya River. Though now a culvert, its name lives on -- the district north of JR Shibuya Station is called Udagawacho. The Shibuya River used to flow round an elevated area, which was to the right of the land depicted in the print -- and which encompasses what are now Yoyogi Park and Meiji Shrine. Today it runs along part of Meiji-dori near Ebisu Station and then on into Tokyo Bay.

Reportedly, the name Yoyogi is derived from an ancient fir tree that grew where Meiji Shrine is now.
Soaring into the sky, this evergreen conifer was praised as a symbol of longevity and came to be called "Yoyogi (Tree of Generation after Generation)." As anyone who climbed high up this tree was afforded a good view of Edo Bay, it is said that Lord Ii Naosuke, who owned the land, had his men scale it to scan the bay on a daily basis after Cmdr. Perry's Black Ships arrived in 1853.

After the 1868 Meiji Restoration, eastern Yoyogi became imperial property, and Meiji Shrine was built there in 1920. Western Yoyogi, however, was maintained as farmland with tea and mulberry among the main crops. But then, in 1907, the farms were requisitioned by the Imperial Army and used as a drill field.

In a dramatic turnabout following Japan's defeat in World War II, Yoyogi's name was changed to Washington Heights, and U.S. Occupation Forces resided there. When they left in 1963, their residential facilities became the 1964 Tokyo Olympics Village. Yoyogi was finally "liberated" in 1967, when it was reborn as a verdant park after 30,000 trees were planted in the area. Encircled by a thick boundary of trees and with tracks running through it for rambling and jogging, 16-hectare Yoyogi Park is now a haven for stressed-out Tokyoites.

A silent witness to all these transitions is Yoyogi Hachiman Shrine, which remains on the same hill as seen in the print, though, of course, heavy urbanization has encroached upon it.
To get to the shrine, start at Yoyogi Koen Station on the Chiyoda Line. Exit 3 is recommended for a short detour to observe the vestiges of the original lay of the land. This exit is on a road bordering Yoyogi Park, and the road follows the valley in which the Udagawa River ran, and leads to Shibuya off to the right.

Make a U-turn to the left and cross a playground before turning right and then left again, just before where a red Coca-Cola vending machine stands. Cross the rail tracks and follow the snaking uphill road. (Do not take the second fork on the left.) Arriving at a stop light on Yamate-dori, the shrine's front gate is immediately to your right.

Located 32 meters above sea level, the shrine area was inhabited by humans about 4,500 years ago -- as was discovered in an archaeological excavation in 1950. To commemorate this, a real-size replica of one of the unearthed ancient dwellings is on display in woods on the left.
Notice a pair of stone lanterns close to the hand-cleansing stand in front of the main hall of the shrine. These were donated in 1909 by 17 farmers who were forced to move from Yoyogi owing to the expropriation of their farms for military use. Feeling deep sorrow about the disintegration of their village community, they had their names and a farewell message inscribed on the lanterns.

Leaving the shrine by a side gate to the right of the main hall, you return again to the road. Go left to enter Yoyogi Park via the Sangubashi Gate. You may wander about as you like, but a suggested walk is to stroll uphill toward the central open area and turn right on the second jogging circuit. The leaves of the Japanese maples here turn deep red, usually in early December.

Past the artificial square-shaped ponds, turn right at the T intersection ahead and you will find a solitary black pine tree named "Eppeishiki-no Matsu (Pine of Royal Review)." The tree used to mark where the Emperor would stand when he -- as the supreme commander of the military forces in prewar years -- reviewed military parades and drills. Nowadays the pine is simply admired for its beauty.

江戸名所図会 Edo Meisho Zue


In Yoyogi, there is a cafe called "Kingyo", Goldfish.
Their Homepage is called TOKYO DARUMA.


- Reference -


. Famous Places and Powerspots of Edo .  

- #yoyogi #shibuyayoyogi -