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Go west : Tenman-guu to console Michizane

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

“Kitano Tenman-guu” in Kyoto to console Michizane

In 942, Michizane’s spirit showed up before a girl from a poor family in Kyoto and ordered to build a shrine for him in “Ukon no baba” (“hippodrome controlled by the right guard office”), the place where he often visited during his life.
Of course she didn’t have got no rights nor power to fulfill his wish, so she built a small shrine beside her house to worship him.

In 947, a boy in a shrine in “Oumi”, the present Shiga prefecture area, received the same message from Michizane.
His father went to talk with a priest of a temple in “Ukon no baba”, and built a shrine in corporation with the girl and the top priest of the temple.
(There is a legend that a few thousands of pine trees appeared in one night to show where the shrine should be built.)

In 959, Fujiwara no Morosuke, who was “U-daizin” back then, donated a proper shrine there.
Morosuke was a son of Fujiwara no Tadahira, who was a brother of Tokihira but sympathetic to Michizane.

In 987, Emperor Ichijyou sent his man (men?) to the shrine to pray for peace of the nation.
It was then that the title of “Kitano Tenman-guu Tenjin” (“Tenjin” literally means “The god in heaven”) as god was officially recognised and it’s been used ever since.

Kitano Tenman-guu 2

- Ukiyo-e of "Kitano Tenman-guu" by Sadanobu Hasegawa (1870 - 1871) -

In 993, Michizane was conferred posthumous ranks as “Sa-daijin” and soon after that, as “Daijyou-daijin”.

In 1004, Emperor Ichijyou visited the shrine.


Dazaifu Tenman-guu

- Dazaifu Tenman-guu -
Photo from Photo AC

Michizane was the first person from the non-imperial families who was enshrined as god.
Every shrine which has the name of “Tenman-guu” worships Michizane as the main god.
It is said that there are around twelve thousands shrines where Michizane is worshipped mainly or subsidiary.


Kitano Tenman-guu 1

- Kitano Tenman-guu -
Photo from Flickr

The most famous “Tenman-guu” shrines in Japan are in Dazaifu (“Dazaifu Tenman-guu”), Osaka (“Osaka Tenman-guu”(Japanese page)) and Kyoto (“Kitano Tenman-guu”).
I’ve only been to one in Dazaifu.


Osaka Tenman-guu

- Osaka Tenman-guu -
Photo from Photo AC

As you can see, “Tenman-guu” shrines were primarily built to console the soul of Michizane.
Then maybe because of his high academic reputation, he became worshipped as god of study (presumably in the Edo era).



- The modern thunder monster -
Nothing to do with "Tenjin".

“Tenjin” is a god connected to thunders, rain, water etc.
Feared as a raging god who harms people and never listen to the emperor.
(The imperial family was described as descendants of the highest god in Japanese myths, “Amaterasu”.)
In the same time, worshipped as the god of agriculture.

“Tenjin” is the Michizane’s title as a god as well, and probably now it’s more common word for Michizane than the original god.
When people say “Tenjin san (or sama)”, they usually refer to him or shrines dedicated to him as the main god.

In a Japanese nursery rhyme entitled “Tooryanse”, there is a word “Tenjin sama” in lyrics.
It is supposed to mean a shrine worshipping Michizane.

Taira no Masakado

Masakado is another famous “onryou” (vengeful spirit) in Japan.
(See my Masakado post.)
There seems to have been a rumour that Masakado was the reincarnation of Michizane.
Masakado’s birth year is not known, but some believe(d) that he was born in the same year when Michizane died.


Related posts:
#Dazaifu (1: General Info)
(2: Michizane – general)
(3: Michizane – legends)
(4: Michizane – vengeance)
(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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