Though there are numerous shrines whose enshrined deity is Sugawara no Michizane, the god of learning, this is the only place that can claim to be ” the first in Japan”!
Tenjin-sama or Tenmangu Shrine, to where students come from all over Japan hoping to receive the god’s blessings and pray that they pass their exams, is located in Yamaguchi prefecture.
Along with Kitano Tenmangu Shrine of Kyoto, and Dazaifu Tenmangu Shrine of Fukuoka, Hofu Tenmangu Shrine is one of the Three Great Tenjin Shrines.
It’s not like I checked them one by one, but as far as I could see, they all had wishes for some kind of success in studies written on them. Sugawara no Michizane, the deity, must be having a hard time, too!
I don’t know if they are there to help ease his fatigue, but within the shrine grounds there are over 1100 plum trees, a species that Sugawara no Michizane loved! In February, all the plum trees bloom at the same time, and a plum festival is held at the shrine.
A great viewing spot that has a view over Hofu, Shunpuro is a town where the leading spirits of Japan’s restoration roamed.
As spring comes to town, the scent of plums drift along in the breeze allowing one to enjoy moments of elegance…
If you prefer sweets to flowers, please rest assured!
Sold only in spring, I had the umemochi (‘ume’ = plum).
It was freshly fried, so the surface was crispy, and the inside chewy! Inside the rice dough there was a plum, shiso, and refined, slightly sweet red bean paste. After one bite, spring spreads around your mouth in an instance. The price is JPY110 for one – Needless to say, I bought a 10-piece pack as a souvenir to take home!
The fortune slip I pulled out was daikichi (excellent luck).
From the first god of learning in Japan, the column entitled “learning” that I was the most curious about had the words “rest assured and study”. It’s truly frightening how much power a place can have; I can feel the will to study rapidly welling up inside.
Along the road leading to the shrine there are a myriad of eateries and shops starting at Hofu city’s shopping and resting facility Umeterasu. Among them, we recommend Hoshoan, a teahouse where you can enjoy matcha tea while admiring the Japanese style garden.
Even here you can find plums…
Founded in 904… Japan’s first Tenjin Shrine, in a historical town.
Having visited the town, I sense the feelings of the Michizane deity’: “When I die, I will become a spirit and return”. Oh, I’m so happy I was born in Japan!
Oidemase! Come to Japan
Hofu Tenmangu Shrine
Address: 14-1 Matsuzaki-cho, Hofu city, Yamaguchi prefecture
URL: http://www.hofutenmangu.or.jp/ (Japanese)
Setouchi Finder Photo-writer: Masashi Fujimoto
Masafumi Fujimoto Hi there! My name is Masafumi Fujimoto. Until the Great East Japan Earthquake of 2011, I was engaged in editing production at an advertising company in Tokyo. However, the earthquake was a turning point in my life and I headed home to Yamaguchi. When I arrived, I was extremely energized and motivated to help revitalize the region, but I had a hard time adjusting to the motivation level of the local people. Around that time I met an elderly lady who said: "It doesn't matter if all the people move away from the island; that's just the nature of things. Someday people will come back again." Lessening the tension I’d been feeling, those few words relieved me hugely, and I was able to finally adjust. Since then, I've been involved in writing and editing magazines, and working in advertisement production, as well as doing a little bit of farming. I also spend time walking around Setouchi searching for the many, many voices out there.
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