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Go west : Sugawara no Michizane – Legends

Date Published: Last Update:2015/04/10 Others ,

There are mysterious legends around Sugawara no Michizane.
Most of them are episodes after he was framed by his political enemy.

Michizane and the flying plum tree

This legend is very well-known along with the following poem.

The night before he left his home in Kyoto, the capital at that time, he composed a poem to a plum tree in the garden.

Michizane's poem 3

When the east wind blows,
bring your scent to me, you plum tree.
Although your master (Michizane) is absent,
never ever miss the spring to come.

In the “Tobi-ume” (lit. “Flying plum tree”) legend, the tree is said to have flown over to Michizane’s residence in Dazaifu in one night, longing for its master.
After the shrine “Dazaifu Tenman-guu” was built, the plum tree was moved there.
You can still see the tree in the shrine.

Dazaifu 06

- "Tobi-ume" -
The very famous identified flying object in Japan.

– Not Flying Object version –
There is a different story (with several variants) about this plum tree.
It’s not famous as the legend and nothing mysterious.

After Michizane left Kyoto, a person who admired Michizane followed him to Dazaifu with a nursery plant (or root) of the plum tree.
Michizane couldn’t tell others that it was brought from the central where he was expelled.
Instead, he said it flew to him.

I’ve never heard of this story until I did some researches on internet to write this post.

Michizane and an ox (or cow?)

There are several ox-related stories, and probably the most famous one is the following:

Michizane left the will about where his body should be buried.
It was like this:
“Let an ox pull a cart with my body, and let it go as it wants without anybody leading it.
Bury my body where it stops.”
People complied with his will.
The ox walked towards east, then stopped at some place, lay down there and didn’t move further.
So, his body was buried there in 903.

In 905, a shrine dedicated to him was built on the spot.
Then in 919, the more proper shrine was built under the order from the emperor.

A few of less known stories are:

  • Michizane was born in an ox year (845, on June 25) and died on the day of ox, February 25 in 903 (This “ox” date stuff comes from Chinese Zodiac).
  • On the way to Dazaifu, Michizane was attacked by an assassin.
    Then, a white ox came out and stabbed the assassin in his belly to save Michizane.

I guess you can see that oxes are belived to be very special and deeply linked with Michizane whether those stories are true or not.
In the shrine, there are many ox statues.

Dazaifu 05

- One of the ox statues in the shrine -

Michizane praying “Live long and prosper” for the nation under the emperor

There is a mountain called “Tenpai-zan” (lit. “Worshipping the heaven mountain”) in Fukuoka.
(Originally it was called as “Tenpan-zan” (lit. “The heaven’s judgement mountain”.)

In a legend, Michizane cleansed himself for a hundred days in a very small waterfall “Shitou no taki” (lit. “Waterfall of purple wisteria) beside “Buzou-ji” which is said to be the oldest temple in Kyushu island.
Then he went to the top of the mountain near the waterfall and prayed for the nation and the day to come when his innocence would be proved, for seven nights and days.
He finally received a message from god, written as “Tenman-jizaiten-jin”, which was a title as god.


There seems to be hot springs in this area.
Maybe I should have stayed there not in Hakata.
Probably it is better to get off at the JR Futsuka-ichi station to get there by train, than the JR Tenpai-zan station.


In spite of the episodes that he still prayed for the emperor and the nation in Dazaifu, he became one of the most feared spirit after his death.
I’m going to write about his fierce vengeance in the next post.


Related posts:
#Dazaifu (1: General Info)
(2: Michizane – general)
(4: Michizane – vengeance)
(5: Michizane – Tenman-guu)
(6: Dazaifu – to the main shrine)
(7: Dazaifu – the main shrine and around)
(8: Dazaifu – Kyushu National Museum)

#Hakata (1: General Info)
(2: Moomin Cafe)
(3: Juventus Lounge)
(4: Kushida Shrine and others)

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A Japanese living in Okayama. A proud "Otaku"! Loves animals, snacks, manga, games (PC, iPad, Nintendo DS, PSP), foreign TV dramas, traveling and football (soccer).

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