Dazaifu: Zen Garden & Shinto Shrine

The second day of my Kyushu trip was spent in Dazaifu. A 40 minute train ride from Fukuoka is Dazaifu, a small town in the hills known for museums and temples.

The first of which that I went to was Tenman-gu, a Shinto shrine. Shinto is religion of spirits and nature and is one of the major religions of Japan, intrinsically linked to Japanese history and culture. Shinto temples are a place for people to request their good fortune, get married or just take in the tranquility.

A shinto priest at work.

People leave notes and fortunes around the temple grounds. Often requesting entrance into a good university or luck in love.

The grounds of Tenman-gu were first established in 905 and runs across more than 12 square kilometers (3,000 acres).  The shrine itself is built over a famous poet's grave and is in a way dedicated to him.

The roof is typically a large part of traditional Japanese architecture, often being more than half of what you see.

The monkey did tricks for money, liking jumping through hoops and looking cute.

A torii gate, their shape are synonymous with Japan itself, they usually mark the entrance of shinto shrines.

A torii in its much more typical bright orange.

Komyo Zen Temple is a short walk from Tenman-gu, so much so that even though I was planning on visiting it while I was in Dazaifu, I actually accidentally found it while I got lost around the Tenman-gu ground.

Zen has become a bit of a buzzword lately, used to refer to minimalism or calming activities of objects. It's easy to see why after visiting this temple. It is simple and quiet. The rock gardens have a surprisingly calming effect. Even though dozens of people came and went while I was there, no one spoke over a whisper.

A Korean tourist taking a memory.

I sat and relaxed.

This is the Maneki-neko, or Beckoning Cat, is another uniquely Japanese item. The figure is intended to bring good luck. Different variables in the cats designs mean different things, what specifically depends on who you ask. Different raised hands man mean more customers or more profits. The gold coin that this one is holding is a form of currency from the end of the samurai era and basically means "a lot money."

And here's a Shinto priest blessing a new Toyota, just because.