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SIGHTSEEING IN JAPAN (Kansai Area)

’·‰ª“V–ž‹{  Nagaoka Temmangu Shrine

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Last update August 10, 2010





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ACCESS: Take Hankyu Kyoto Line and get off at Nagaoka Tenjin Station. The shrine is located at 10 minutes' walk from the West Exit. (http://www.nagaokatenmangu.or.jp/)

Enshrining the Patron of Academy
Among Many Shrines of its Kind, this is the Place Where Michizane Used to Spend His Good Old Days.

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Located to the south of Kyoto, Nagaoka Temmangu is one of many Temmangu affiliates (more than 12000 throughout Japan). Temmangu is the shrine dedicated to Sugawara Michizane (845 - 903), an excellent poet and politician, sanctified as a Patron of Academy. The head shrine of the organization is Dazaifu Temmangu in Fukuoka prefecture, western Japan. Nagaoka Temmangu was built in 901, but the shrine building was once burned in the War of Ōnin (1467 - 1477).

The location where Nagaoka Shrine is built today used to be a place frequently visited by Michizane before he was exiled to Dazaifu, a place far away from Kyoto. Accompanied by Ariwara Narihira (his contemporary poet), Michizane spent his leisure time here, composing poems and enjoying ancient orchestra music.

Among aristocrats in those days, composing Kanshi (a Chinese-style poem using Chinese characters) and Waka (a Japanese verse containing five-seven-five-seven-seven syllable units) were popular leisure activities and often a telltale of their intellectual profundity as well as artistic sensibility. His unrivaled, marvelous talents for literary arts eventually given him the posthumous title of guardian of academic activities.

Sacred Ox Statues
At the entrance area after passing through the main Torii gate, there are statues of ox. Several accounts are available for the origin of ox statues placed at Temmangu shrines.

One of them says that Michizane was born in 845, the Year of Ox, and on the night of his Gempuku (coming-of-age ceremony), he dreamed of a white ox, who accidentally damaged one of his horns and died from the injury. Concerned about this dream so much that Michizane drew the ox and offered rice wine in front of it to console its spirit.

Also there are versions saying that he met a handsome ox on a hunting journey and took it home; or he was saved by a white ox from attackers on his way to the place of exile.

The ox statues have a plum blossom crest (Temmangu shrine crest) attached on the body.

Hachiijō Pond
Spanning from the north to south at the east side of the shrine is "Hachijō pond," home to colorful carps and small tortoises. The pond was named after Prince Tomohito of Hachijō in the Edo Period (1603 - 1867), who was the landlord of the area surrounding the pond. The pond was created in 1638, and since then, it has been used as an agricultural reservoir until recently.

Kirishima Azalea
In early summer, beautiful azalea blossoms decorate the both sides of the main passageway over the pond, as if they would give a red-carpet welcome to the visitors. The species is called Kirishima (the name was taken from Mt. Kirishima in Southern Kyūshū), and is designated as the flower of Nagaoka City. For its similar traits to wild species, Kirishima grows rather tall (2.5 to 3 meters high). The shrubs here are between 100 to 150 years old.

Cherry blossoms with multiple petal layers are another treat for flower-lovers. They can be viewed to the north of the shrine from the passageways on the pond in late April.

For those who agree to the Japanese saying that goes "Dumplings rather than flowers," there are shops in the yard vending typical Japanese festival snacks.

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