Dazaifu is a small town south-east of Fukuoka. It was the administrative capital of Kyūshū during the Kofun (300-710) and Heian (794-1185) periods.
Heian poet and scholar Sugawara-no-Michizane (845-903) was forced into an unfair exile from Kyōto to Dazaifu, where he died two years later. He was later deified as Tenjin or Kankou, the god of culture and protector of students and scholars.
Dazaifu's Tenman-gu Shrine was built on Michizane's grave and is the Dazaifu's first attraction. The 6,000 plum trees planted all around the shrine come into blossom mid-February to early March.
Not far from there, the Kōmyō-ji Temple (光明寺) has a gorgeous Zen garden (9am-5pm, ￥200) with lavish moss and well-kept dry gardens.
On the other side of the Mikasa-gawa river, opposite Nishitetsu Gojō station, the Kanzeon-ji (観世音寺) and Kaidan-in (戒壇院) temples are some of the oldest temples in Japan. The former dates from 746 and the latter from 761. Kanzeon-ji Temple used to be the most important temple in Kyūshū and boasts the oldest temple bell in Japan (697).
The adjacent Kanzenonji Treasure Hall has wooden statues dating from the 10th to 12th centuries displaying strong Indian influence in style.
How to get there
The Nishitetsu (西鉄) Railway connects Dazaifu to Fukuoka in about 35min (￥390).