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Tenmangu: The Origin of Tenjin’s Name

Tenmangu are Shinto shrines dedicated to Sugawara no Michizane, the god of learning. There are many tenmangu throughout Japan, but one of the most famous of these shrines is in Dazaifu, where Michizane passed away. Another shrine, Suikyo Tenmangu, is located in the middle of Tenjin, Fukuoka’s bustling downtown, and it is also the origin of the name ‘Tenjin’. Tenjin was another way to refer to tenmangu, and Michizane was also referred to as Tenjin-sama. For this reason, people started calling the area around Suikyo Tenmangu Tenjin. The shrine was originally located in Imaizumi and it was called Suikyo-no-Tenjin or Sugatami Tenjin. It was built there because when Michizane first came to Hakata, he was said to have peered into a nearby river (now Yakuin Shinkawa) and lamented his haggard-looking reflection. The shrine was moved to its current location in 1612 because Nagamasa Kuroda, the first lord of the Fukuoka Domain, wanted it to protect the northeastern gate of Fukuoka Castle. That is when it became known as Suikyo Tenmangu. Today, Suikyo Tenmangu is a quiet oasis amid towering modern office buildings. Suikyo Tenmangu Yokocho, the narrow alley next to the shrine, maintains an old-time atmosphere with a jumble of tiny restaurants.

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Not far from here are two other shrines dedicated to Michizane. Kagami Tenmangu, located next to Hakata Riverain, is said to be a spot where Michizane saw his reflection in a mirror upon arriving in Hakata. Just down the road, in Tsunabamachi, is Tsunahiki Tenmangu. It is built on the site where the newly arrived Michizane is said to have met some locals making rugs from rope. Originally called Tsunawa Tenjin, the shrine was later renamed Tsunahiki Tenmangu, and thus the neighborhood became known as Tsunabamachi.

Art & Culture
Fukuoka City
Published: Dec 22, 2014 / Last Updated: May 30, 2019

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