Established as Kyushu's capital during the 7th century, the city of Dazaifu is one of Fukuoka Prefecture's best-known destinations. It flourished as a center of government and commerce with mainland Asia for centuries.
Dazaifu was once known as the “Western Capital”
The city was also Kyushu's most important Buddhist center
Dazaifu is easily accessible by train from downtown Fukuoka.
Take the Nishitetsu Line from Fukuoka Tenjin Station to Dazaifu Station, changing at Futsukaichi. The train takes about 30 minutes.
Dazaifu's most famous shrine is dedicated to Tenjin, the deified form of the 9th-century poet-scholar Michizane Sugawara. Originally tied to natural disasters and the plague, Tenjin came to be regarded as a god of education. Students still pour into Dazaifu Tenmangu around exam time to pray for success.
The street leading to the shrine is lined with shops selling umegae mochi, a local specialty of fried mochi rice cakes filled with sweet red-bean jam. Ice cream stands sell only-in-Japan flavors like green tea and black sesame, and there are numerous shops selling souvenirs and knick-knacks.
The shrine and its grounds are magnificent any time of year, but they really come alive in early March when over 6,000 plum trees burst into bloom. The already lovely temple gardens turn into a sea of pink and white. Some of Sugiwara's most famous poems feature plum trees, hence their prominent presence at Dazaifu Tenmangu Shrine .
You can reach the Kyushu National Museum on the other side of the shrine compound with a pleasant walk through the grounds. The museum hosts periodic special exhibits alongside a permanent exhibition that explores the history of Kyushu and Dazaifu. In particular, the museum delves into the area's historic ties to the Asian continent.
There are numerous other historical attractions throughout the city. Kanzeon-ji Temple is an important historic Buddhist site with amazing ancient statuary preserved in its treasure house. Atmospheric Kamado Shrine at the foot of Mt. Homan is also well worth a visit.
The information center at Dazaifu Tenmangu Shrine offers free maps that describe a historical tour through Dazaifu, as does Dazaifu's popular app.
For those looking to get out of town for a while, the hike up Mt. Homan is well worth the effort. The well-maintained trail starts from Kamado Shrine, and the hike takes about two and a half hours to the top for those of average fitness. You'll be rewarded with views across Dazaifu and Fukuoka , and the chance to visit Kamado's mountaintop shrine.