Dazaifu Tenmangu Shrine: The Japanese Temple with a Plum-Tree Garden on its Roof

The Dazaifu Tenmang Shrine, a Shinto temple in Fukuoka prefecture in Japan, is one of the oldest in the region.

Shinto temples are a cultural heritage in several Asian countries, but perhaps Japan stands out as the one that receives more tourists per year in these sacred precincts. Among its temples, there is one that stands out because it is being remodeled for the first time in 120 years and will have a plum tree on the roof, it is the Dazaifu Tenmangu Shrine.

The Legend of Dazaifu Tenmangu Shrine

The Dazaifu Tenmang Shrine, a Shinto temple in Fukuoka prefecture in Japan, is one of the oldest in the region, as it is believed that its foundation stone was laid in 919. It is dedicated to the kami Tenjin, which is the deified form of Sugawara no Michizane, who was a Japanese poet of the Heian era that spans from 794 to 1185.


According to the legend of Dazaifu Tenmang Shrine, Michizane was a staunch poet who had the favor of the gods but once provoked the wrath of the Fujiwara clan so he was banished and devoted the rest of his life to studying in solitary confinement. The poet never stopped missing his home and legend has it that the plum tree he loved so much in his former home flew to the place where he passed to keep him company.

This happened in what is now Fukuoka, and the Dazaifu Tenmangu Shrine became a gift to thank him for his deification as the god of learning, a kami known as Tenjin.


The Temple with a Plum Tree on the Roof

The firm Sou Fujimoto Architects will be in charge of restoring the Dazaifu Tenmangu Shrine, after 120 years of the temple not receiving any type of remodeling. This is why Sou Fujimoto took as inspiration the legend of the flying plum tree of Michizane and will turn it into reality; they will place an almost surrealistic garden right on the roof of the temple.

On the sanctuary’s sloping roofs, the architects plan to place an array of vegetation to give the appearance of flying overhead, and of course, the garden will include the poet’s flying plum tree. The project hopes to make a visual impact on visitors, who will be able to admire how the passing seasons leave their mark on the sanctuary’s atmosphere. Plum trees are very similar to cherry trees, and like their congeners, they bloom in spring with beautiful flowers of whitish and pinkish colors.


The remodeling is expected to take about three years, but after that time, visitors will be able to relive Michizane’s legend and his unbreakable connection to poetry, as well as to nature and especially her plum tree.

Story originally published in Spanish in Ecoosfera

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