Dazaifu seems to be one of the most popular day-trips from Fukuoka. At first, I thought it might be an overrated tourist destinations, but I ended up really enjoying it! Anyways, without further ado, I’ll list out what I liked and briefly explain how to get there.
1. Dazaifu Burger
Many towns in Japan have their own burger. About a week before Dazaifu, I was in Karatsu, which also has a Karatsu burger. It tasted pretty average, so I was kinda skeptical about another local burger, but Dazaifu’s BLEW. ME. AWAY.
The highlight is the plum sauce on the bottom (the purple). It gives the burger this slightly sour flavor that perfectly complements the deep-fried chicken. Anyone who likes うめしそ (plum + shiso flavoring) and 唐揚げ (kara-age, i.e. Japanese-style deep-fried chicken) will enjoy this.
I’m probably not supposed to say this, but this burger made me glad that I came to Dazaifu. Here’s the burger joint’s website.
2. Plum Blossoms
The reason that the Dazaifu Burger has a plum-based sauce is that Dazaifu is famous for plum blossoms. The deity that is enshrined at the local temple was apparently infatuated with plum blossoms, writing many poems about them.
So if you’re lucky enough to be in the area late-February or early March, you’re in for a treat. I happened to be there late-February, when they were just starting to blossom, and it was already quite beautiful then.
3. Tenmangu Shrine
The main attraction in Dazaifu is the Dazaifu Tenmangu Shrine. You can’t miss it; it’s where all the crowds are headed. When I went, there were a ton of people lining up to pray:
The deity who is enshrined in “Tenmangu shrines” was a scholar and statesman from the 9th century, now revered as the god of learning. Students pray to him before exams. On the sides of the temple, you’ll see booths dedicated to those services:
The white sign on the left says “pass college entrance exams,” and is (I assume) where people buy lucky charms.
The scholar’s posthumous name was “Tenjin,” which is why there are a lot of places in Japan named “Tenjin,” … including Tenjin in Fukuoka! It’ll also sound familiar to you if you’ve been to Osaka’s Tenjin Matsuri, a festival hosted by Osaka’s Tenmangu Shrine! It’s all starting to connect now!
But anyways, the shrine grounds are beautiful and well-worth walking around.
4. Kyushu National Museum
Not far from the shrine is the Kyushu National Museum.
You have to take a fairly long escalator up the slope to get there. On the day I went, there was free admission to the fourth floor, so I took another long escalator up.
The fourth floor talks about the history of Japan in Asia throughout history. Museums in Kyushu tend to focus on how interconnected Japan was with the rest of the world. Here is a Buddha statue from China:
I thought the part about how “curly hair and large hands” were a Central Asian influence was interesting.
My favorite part of this trip to the museum though was this “behind-the-scenes” tour (which the museum called a “backyard tour”). It takes you into the back offices and storage facilities of the museum and … underneath the museum. Take a guess what this might be:
This is the “Seismic Isolation Layer” 免震装置 beneath the Kyushu National Museum, which keeps the museum safe when there are earthquakes. Basically, when earthquakes occur, this level shakes a lot, allowing the building above it to not shake so much. You can think of it like a toy car during an earthquake — the wheels roll around while the car stays in place. Last time there was a magnitude 4 earthquake, thanks to this isolation layer, the museum only experienced a magnitude 2 earthquake.
To learn more about the museum, you can watch their rather elaborate introduction video (English).
You can look up how to get to Dazaifu on Google Maps, so I won’t go into the specifics, things to watch out for. The station you’ll want to go to is Nishitetsu Fukuoka (Tenjin) Station.
- “Nishitetsu” is the name of the transportation company that runs the train line. Since there are many train companies in Japan, and a neighborhood might have two train stations from different companies, train station names include the names of the train company.
- “Tenjin” refers to the Tenjin area and also the fact that the train station is right next to the Tenjin metro station.
The confusing thing about this train station is it doesn’t look like a train station. It’s actually a department store, and the train station is on the second floor of the department store. (Even more confusingly, there’s also a bus terminal inside as well.)
Anyways, you take an express train (急行), and switch to a local train (各駅停車) at Nishitetsu Futsukaichi Station (西鉄二日市駅) and then go two stops to Dazaifu Station. The local train is cute and decorated with local motifs.
✌️And that’s a wrap!
So these were the highlights of my trip to Dazaifu. I did this in a half-day trip as I had plans back in Fukuoka for the evening, but if I had more time, I would’ve also gone to the Kanzeonji Temple, which two friends recommended to me.