Sunday, September 14, 2014

Dazaifu Shrine, Japan

For our Chuseok (harvest festival) holiday in Korea, I decided to join some other expats and head off to Japan. Following an overnight bus from Seoul to Busan, we boarded a ferry and landed in Fukuoka, Japan, less than three hours later. Rain pelted us just as we boarded the bus, but everyone was in good spirits anyway. Having followed the weather forecast carefully, I arrived prepared with an umbrella and didn't get wet. 

A short distance from Fukuoka, the rather small city of Dazaifu was once an important administrative center for the island of Kyushu. Our first stop was the Dazaiful Shrine, a Tenmangu Shinto shrine dedicated to a well-known scholar Sugawara Michizane who died in 903 AD. The shrine complex is built on the site of Michizane's grave and still is a popular place to visit for students. Its main building dates back to 1591.
I loved the contrast of the neutral, slightly "fuzzy" roof compared to the more ornamental portion just below it. The main hall is a classic example of Momoyama-style architecture. I read that the tree next to the temple was one of 6,000 plum trees on the complex; how beautiful it must look in spring.

Absent in the shrine were deities or other statues. Shintoism, we were told, was not about following a particular scripture, dogma, or founder, but rather more about a reverence for ancestral traditions, customs, and living & acting to the guidance of the gods.

Devotees sat on cushions on the porch, while the priest performed his chanting and rituals from the elevated platform.

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