8 attractions not to miss in Dazaifu
One weekend we went on a relaxing day trip to Dazaifu.
Dazaifu is a small city housing Kyushu’s National Museum (a must for lovers of Japanese space station architecture), a famous shrine (if you wanna pass your exams go there) and a temple of Zen (get your tranquillity fix here).
There is a lot to see but can be incorporated into an easy walking tour.
Eight sightseeing spots in walking order:
❤ Tourist Information at Dazaifu Station. Get an info map with sight explanations in English.
❤ Kasa-no-ya shopping street. Don’t forget to buy the most popular souvenir from Dazaifu: Mochi cake! (525 yen for a pack of five)
❤ Komyo Zenji Temple. (200 yen per person)
❤ Kyushu National Museum. (420 yen per person for the regular exhibition, 1500 yen per person for the Tokugawa family treasures – temporary exhibition)
❤ Dazaifu Tenmangu Shrine. The one to ask for favourable exam results (free – make a donation or buy temple lucky charms)
❤ Michizana Sugawara History Museum. (200 yen per person)
❤ Kanzeon Temple. Don’t miss the oldest bell in Japan! (free)
❤ Tofuro ruins. The foundations of ancient government buildings. Has a bit of a miniature stone henge feel – a great place to take a relaxing stroll after all the colourful sights. (free)
How to get to Dazaifu
Dazaifu is a stone’s throw away from Fukuoka, that is about 30 minutes by train. Costs: 390 yen one way. On the way to Dazaifu, we took the train from Nichitetsu to Nichitetsufutsukaichi (Nichitetsu Line) where we had to change trains to Dazaifu Station. But on the way back, we decided to board from Tofuromae Station which was closest to the last sight we visited in Dazaifu.
We left at about noon and came back to Fukuoka with the last train at around midnight.
Welcome to Dazaifu!
I enjoyed Dazaifu which gave us a break from city concrete. Dazaifu is a small town with typical Japanese two storey houses.
Bus stop near Dazaifu station.
First stop on the way. Kasa-no-ya shopping street. Many cool Japanese things to buy.
I only had eyes for Totoro, the friendly Japanese anime spirit created by Hayao Miyazaki.
But the main souvenir is, of course food: Umegaemochi rice cakes. Many shops selling and producing soft mochi bean buns in front of your eyes.
The queue is a giveaway to the best mochi.
Mochi get a careful wrapping.
For a mouthwatering experience, watch the mochi treat being prepared.
Next stop. Komyozenji Temple. Komyozenji temple was built in the Kamakura period (1185–1333) and is famous for its two Zen gardens.
One garden represents an artificial island and the sea. The white pebbles and moss are used to create islands and water.
Frozen in time!
The other garden has several stones arranged in the shape of the Chinese character of light, thereby referring to the halo of the Buddha.
A Japanese praying mantis was an impressive sight. Poor thing, it was missing one front leg, too.
Kyushu National Museum. The 4th national museum following Tokyo, Kyoto and Nara, showing the formation of Japanese culture through prehistoric Asian history.
I enjoyed the rich treasures of the Tokugawa family best. Fine lacquered boxes, paper paravans with minimalist Japanese depictions of nature but also stunning warrior armour and endless Samurai swords.
If you walk to the museum from the backside up the hill, you will pass extremely many and enormous spiderwebs.
The museum is large enough to fully cover an international soccer field and looks like a space station from the outside.
An interesting find: in the 8th century a wise Japanese person decided to examine where our illnesses come from and arrived at the conclusion that these creatures are the cause!
You could buy a postcard depicting a creature responsible for each ailment.
All the creature-malaise united.
The hands-on area (admittedly for kids) was fun with various activity corners and country themes. We worked our grey matter to make a rabbit out of a square puzzle.
Not to miss – Tenmangu Shrine. Dedicated to the memory of Michizane Sugawara, talented and bright (started to write poetry at the age of 11), which is why he is also associated with Tenjin, the Shinto god of learning. Hence Tenmangu Shrine is popular amongst students – especially during exam periods.
Here is the story: During the Heian period (around 900) Michizane enjoyed his position as a renowned minister and scholar in Kyoto until he was demoted due to a conspiracy of the ruling clan. Sent to far-off Dazaifu, he died only two years later. Kyoto was stricken with disaster after he was exiled and people believed it was due to their wrong doing to Michizane. This is when people started to bring offerings and build Tenmangu shrine on the site of Michizane’s grave.
In the Michizane Sugawara History Museum (no photography) you can see his life portrayed with traditional Hakata dolls in retro-spacey dioramas.
You will cross traditional Japanese bridges which represent the past, present and future, in order to reach the temple. You will also see many plum trees at the temple, Michizane’s favourite tree.
Touch the horns of the ox for good luck.
I love to watch turtles interact with kois and humans. They are smart and lively creatures but many turtles are kept in tiny plastic containers in front of the house in Japan. I was thinking about setting them all free to one of the marvellous ponds in Japan.
There are many distractions at the temple. 100 yen to read your fortune.
Waiting in line to make a prayer, a wish or to get a blessing. Legend has it that the plum tree in front of this main hall came along from Kyoto to Dazaifu, escorting Michizane.
Study hard and you shall all pass your exams.
I have no idea what these wooden beauties are. Do you (please share, if you do!)?
I always like to look at the beautiful emas, the wooden tablets with a lucky image on one side and a blank back side. People hand write wishes and prayers onto the back, some carry fantastic drawings. You can buy an ema and write a wish in English.
More temples. Kanzeonji Temple. This temple was built in 746 by the Emperor Tenji for his mother and it was so famous that it appears in The tale of Genji – a Japanese novel written by a court lady in the Heinan period (794 – 1185).
Today it is known for its ancient bell which is said to produce a unique ringing sound.
The famous bronze bell is the only object that has survived since 746.
There are many statues with cute beanies.
I spotted Tanuki, the raccoon creature with incredibly big balls, believed to bring good fortune.
Although I should be used to the swastika in Asia, I am still somewhat intrigued by the peace sign when I see it.
We were walking around the neighbourhood and saw this Japanese truck. Japanese mini-size, yet it has something of an American truck.
On the sidewalk, someone had placed Snow White’s dwarfs in the flowerbed.
Along the way was also plenty opportunities to refresh. Even the vending machines have been given a matching ancient wooden look in Dazaifu.
Our choice: cold lemon tea.
For snacks, the mochi balls on beans with cream. If you see this dessert at the conbini, consider yourself lucky – they don’t always have it. I started to like beans and soft and gluey rice cake like a real Japanese!
The last sight. Tofuro Ruins, also called Ancient Government Office Site. The name Dazaifu actually refers to government headquarters, which were established here about 1300 years ago. Back then, the building was imposing with laquered columns and a tiled roof – it controlled all of Kyushsu island for 500 years.
Toady, all that remains is a park containing the huge foundation stones of the original headquarters.
It is a popular park to walk dogs.
The perfect place to take a stroll and apparently to meet new people… like Arseny, a Fukuoka based physicist from Russia. It turns out Arseny is working on bringing the world fusion energy, he plays traditional Japanese flute and can sing Polish songs I haven’t even heard of.
Talking about the workings of the world, as well as the indisputably fantastic taste of borscht, we finished off the day with Japanese stereotypes.
These two made me crave for dessert!
On our way home, scientifically inspired, I opted for ‘a great supplement drink endorsed by aesthetic TBC’‘.
Science is great and Arseny, a pleasure to meet!