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Bull points the way to the Tenmangu shrine. Shiny nose from rubbing...

Next to the elegantly curved entrance bridges an equally elgant pavillion

Quite a few people on 'Omairi', visit of the Shinto shrine

Temizu basin, cleanse left hand first pouring water with the bamboo spoon...

We used to have a few of those, but then smaller

People watching in front of the shrine

Make a small donations, like the lady in blue does

Then bow twice (man on the left) and clap twice (man on...

Leading the ceremony

Stalls where people buy Ema (wooden tablets (Y500 [€4]), Ofuda (talisman to...

Ema with wishes written on the back hanging on one of the...

Omikuji little papers predicting your personal fortune (Y100 [€ 0.80]).

Quite becoming these Shinto dresses

So this is how they do it, just prohibit it

The Kyushu National Museum is massive and seems a bit out of...

Highlights Asian influences on Japanese culture

With beautiful pottery

Intriguing statues beautifully presented but with little explanation

Photography not allowed so I had to take it quickly while the...

From a 16th century Dutch shipwreck a rare wooden statue of Erasmus

On the way to the Zen Buddhist Komyozen-ji temple. Do Zen water...

Silly quips about Zen and green tea aside. I love those Zen...

They really do inspire contemplation


Just outside Fukuoka lies Dazaifu, now a tranquil little village a bit off the beaten path (walk, Hakata station, subway, walk, local train, change trains, walk), but for 500 years the political, military and administrative capital of Kyushu and the first line of defense against the Mongolian invasions.

Of the beaten path for tourists that is, the Japanese were flocking on their 'Omairi' (visit of the shrine) into the Tenmangu Shinto temple. Many are donating a small amount, bowing twice, then clapping twice and folding their hands in front of the shrine. Some participated directly in a ceremony led by the priest (since other Japanese were taking pictures, I assumed I could safely do that too) and almost everybody bought Ema (wooden tablets to write a wish on), Ofuda (a talisman to protect a home), or Omamori (an amulet for personal protection) from the long stalls lining the courtyard or paid Y100 for a Omikuji fortune paper (so this is where the fortune cookies originate from). Apart from anything else, this certainly beats the Sunday collection box as far as funding Shintoism goes.

The recently built Kyushu National Museum, highlighting Asian influences on Japanese culture, does a beautiful job of presenting artifacts but falls a bit short on putting it into the historical context of the developing Japanese nation, so I was still not that much the wiser afterwards, but came across a rare 16th century statue of Erasmus, salvaged from a Dutch merchantman (and worth flouting the museum rules of not taking pictures).

There are 6 more temple complexes in Dazaifu, so I have to limit myself and the nearby Komyozen-ji Zen Buddhist temple does not disappoint. It is small, but its moss and pebbles garden inspires that kind of contemplative mood, that only watching the endless surf on an ocean beach or indeed Zen gardens can.

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