I have to confess I have a weak spot for plum blossom. For me as soon as I can see this pink flower, I know I don’t need to suffer much longer with the cold weather and Spring is not that far anymore. This year I could admire this very early sign of Spring at the Osaka Tenmangu Shrine. The origin of this shrine goes back to 949, when the present shrine was built in 1845 (previously many times destroyed by fire). Actually at Tenmangu Michizane Sugawara is enshrined. Apart from being a famous scholar, poet, and politician of the Heian Period of Japan, he is the center of the yearly “Tenjin Matsuri” in July (note the marvelous videos about the festival at this link).
During this temple visit I learned that not only people come to pray, but I noticed as well several cats being comfortable on the shrine ground. I know I will be back again, because on the ground I saw so many shrines built for an amazing number of gods I have not heard of before. I definitely need to brush up on early Heian history.
Everywhere in Japan you can find many Tenman-gu shrines, which actually originated from a powerful story related to the afterlife of Michizane Sugawara. According to Wikipedia in 901, through the political maneuverings of his rival, Fujiwara no Tokihira, Sugawara was demoted from his aristocratic rank and sent to a minor official post at Dazaifu (Kyushu’s Chikuzen Province). Sugawara died lonely exiled. Afterwards plague and drought spread, plus the sons of the present Emperor Daigo died in succession. Additionally the Imperial Palace’s Great Audience Hall was struck repeatedly by lightning, and the city experienced weeks of rainstorms and floods.
Attributing this to the angry spirit of the exiled Sugawara, the imperial court built a Shinto shrine called Kitano Tenman-gū in Kyoto, and dedicated it to him. They posthumously restored his title and office, and struck from the record any mention of his exile. Sugawara was deified as Tenjin-sama, or kami of scholarship.
As soon as I understand the background of this marvelous historical Osaka Tenmangu Shrine, I will get back to you again. In the meantime, let’s welcome the coming warmer weather!
Brought to you by Sibylle Ito (シビル伊藤)