Dazai-fu (local government office in Kyushu region) (大宰府)

Dazai-fu was a local administrative agency established in Chikuzen Province in the late seventh century
Its Japanese name is 'Oho mikotomochi no tsukasa.'


Oho mikotomochi was a post that governed a wide area of several provinces placed in areas that were important for local administration, a kind of provincial governor-general. Before Taiho Ritsuryo (Taiho Code) was enforced, there were Kibi no Oho mikotomochi (in 679), Suo Sorei (in 685), and Iyo Soryo (in 689), and so on, but they were abolished as Taiho ryo was enforced, and only Dazai no sochi (Governor-General of the Dazai-fu office) was kept.

As described in the section of November, 700 in "Shoku Nihongi" (Chronicle of Japan Continued), 'jikidaiichi (the ninth grade of jikidai rank for vassals of the forty-eight grades of cap rank, which corresponds to Shoshiinojo, Senior Fourth Rank, Upper Grade of Taiho Ritsuryo, Taiho Code) Isonokami Ason (second highest of the eight hereditary titles) Maro was appointed to Tsukushi no soryo, jikikosan (the fourteenth grade of jikiko rank for vassals of the forty-eight grades of cap rank, which corresponds to Shogoinoge, Senior Fifth Rank, Lower Grade of Taiho Ritsuryo, Taiho Code) Ono Ason Kenu was appointed to daini (Senior Assistant Governor-General), and jikikosan Hata no Ason Mugobe was appointed to Suo soryo,' it was also called soryo.

By Taiho Ritsuryo (701), Dazai-fu in Kyushu was established as a government agency, but other Dazai were abolished, so it is correct to think that 'Dazai-fu' in general refers to the one in Kyushu. In addition, the assumed area corresponds to what is now Dazai-fu City and Chikushino City. Its remains are a special historic site designated by the national government.

The mokkan (a narrow strip of wood on which an official message is written) in Heijo-kyu Palace reads 'Tsukushi no Omikotomochi' (a diplomatic facility to entertain foreign envoys) (筑紫大宰) and Nagaoka kyo (the ancient capital of Nagaoka) mokkan in Heijo-kyu Palace reads 'Dazai-fu' (大宰府) and the description '大宰府, which is the name of the authority, is used as a historical term. For the names of the city and the shrine that deify SUGAWARA no Michizane, the description '太宰府,' which appeared after the medieval period, is used. It is occasionally abbreviated to 'Saifu' (宰府).

Currently, the historic site is often called 'tofuroato' (the remains of capital towers) by local residents.


Its major roles were foreign diplomacy and defense, and for the nine provinces in Saikaido (Chikuzen, Chikugo, Buzen, Bungo, Hizen, Higo, Hyuga, Satsuma, and Osumi Provinces) and three islands (Iki, Tsushima, and Tane (present Osumi Islands, absorbed into Osumi in 824) Provinces), it held jurisdiction over an administrative branch and a judiciary branch including personnel affairs of jo (secretary of provincial offices) and lower ranks as well as auditing shidoshi (envoys who bring four major official documents sent by kokushi (provincial governors)). Because of the great authority it was granted, it was also called 'To no mikado' (government office located far from the capital).

For military affairs, sakimori no tsukasa that supervised border soldiers was placed under its jurisdiction to protect the western border.

Due to the fact that Kitakyushu had played a role as a front gate to interact with dynasties in China and Korean Peninsula since ancient times, Korokan, a State Guest House to entertain foreign emissaries, was placed in Natsu (present central Fukuoka City).

The governor-general was called Dazai no sochi, and high government officials such as Dainagon (Major Counselor) or Chunagon (middle counselor), who were equivalent to Jusanmi (Junior Third Rank) would concurrently serve as well. During the Heian period, however, imperial princes were appointed but did not actually go to the post in most cases, while the next position, Dazai gon no sochi, attended actual government affairs (when an ex-minister was demoted, he did not have power over practical affairs). The term of sochi and gon no sochi was five years. In addition, Dazai-fu was the center of private trade with merchant ships of Tang and Song dynasties (China) around this time.

There were Shitokan (four classifications of bureaucrats' ranks) under Sochi as follows:
Suke (Daini, Shoni)
Jo (Daikan, Shokan)
Sakan (Daiten, Shoten)
In addition, there were titles such as Kanjin Zonin (lower-ranking government official), doctors, and Sanshi (a court official in charge of calculation).

Its area was about 254,000 square meters, about 6.4 times as large as Koshien Stadium.


The coasts of Genkai-nada Sea were an important point of traffic that served as a contact point to the Asian Continent, especially through the Yayoi Period and Kofun period (tumulus period). Therefore, Yamato sovereignty (the ancient Japan sovereignty) which had its regional base in the Kinai region (the five capital provinces surrounding the ancient capitals of Nara and Kyoto) established a regional office as a strategic point for foreign affairs and military operation against the Korean peninsula.

Apart from 'Ichitaishotsu' (local official dispatched by the central government to manage foreign affairs) described in "Gishiwajinden" (literally, an 'Account of the Wa' in "The History of the Wei Dynasty"), the following descriptions are considered to be evidence of this.
This Tsukushi Province is a place that serves as a gate to come and go to far and near places. (snip) Establish a miyake (government-ruled area) by Nanotsu (old name for Hakata Otsu)' in the section for the year 536 in "Nihonshoki" (Chronicles of Japan)

Said, sending ekiba (horses for transportation of official travelers) to Tsukushi Shogun' in the section for the year 593. Tsukushi no Omikotomochi reported to the Empress' in the section for April, 609.

First appearance of the letters 'Omikotomochi' is in the section of year 609, but as described above, the origin of Dazai-fu is considered to be older based on articles on building miyake in Hakata, Fukuoka prefecture.

Japan confronted the Tang and Silla allied forces and suffered a huge defeat in the Battle of Hakusukinoe in 663. It is said that the dynasty of Emperor Tenchi, for fear that Tang might push into Japan, built mizuki and komizuki, which store water in big dikes, in Tsukushi in August, 664. Mizuki are facilities that block up skirts of mountains on the east and west, and their remains still exist to this day. Their structures were dorui (earthwork) that are 14-meter high, about 37-meter wide at the basement, and about 1-kilometer long.

In addition, it is said that castles were built in the following year 665, including Ono-jo Castle (Chikuzen Province) on the back of Dazai-fu and Kii-jo Castle in the front.

Besides there are descriptions of 'Tsukushi no Omikotomochi no sochi' in 649, 'Tsukushi no kami,' and 'Tsukushi no soryo,' which have been confirmed during the period from Emperor Tenchi to Emperor Tenmu, and are thought to indicate that the royal families and nobles were dispatched from the central government. Tsukushi totokufu' (Tsukushi Governor-General Office) in 667, and 'Tsukushi no Omikotomochi no Tsukasa' (or Dazai-fu in Tsukushi) first appear in 671as names of the authority.

During this period, there were many cases where nobles that fell from power in the capital Nara (Kyoto since 794) were demoted. Examples include SUGAWARA no Michizane and FUJIWARA no Korechika. In addition, FUJIWARA no Hirotsugu, who was transferred to Dazai-fu, held a grudge from being displaced from the capital and rose in revolt in 740. Dazai-fu was abolished for several years due to this, and during that period, the administrative function of Dazai-fu was administered by Chikuzen Kokushi (the provincial governor of Chikuzen Province) and the military function was administered by the newly established Chinzei-fu. In other words, Dazai-fu was temporarily abolished in February 742 and Chinzei-fu was established in Tsukushi in December 743. However, Dazai-fu was restored in July 745.

In 941, it fell in the Johei and Tengyo War (FUJIWARA no Sumitomo's War) in which Dazai gon no sochi TACHIBANA no Kimiyori fought against the attack of Fujiwara's troop.

In 1158, when TAIRA no Kiyomori became Dazai no daini (Senior Assistant Governor-General), the political center in Kitakyushu was transferred to Hakata (Fukuoka City), 20 kilometers north of Dazai-fu to promote the trade between Japan and Sung Dynasty in China, which was the basis of the Taira clan government.

Sukeyori MUTO was assigned to Dazai no shoni (Junior Assistant Governor-General), and during the generation of his heir, the family became the Shoni clan.

During the medieval period, their reign became unstable due to the decline of the Imperial Court and the trend of Saikaido such as Mongolian attempts to invade Japan. During the period of the Northern and Southern Courts (Japan), Emperor Godaigo of the Southern Court dispatched his Imperial Prince Kaneyoshi as seisei shogun (literally, "great general who subdues the western barbarians"), and the Southern Court who supported Imperial Prince Kaneyoshi who was backed up by the Kikuchi clan defeated the Northern Court, whose supreme commander was the Shoni clan, in the Battle of Chikugo-gawa River in 1351. Seiseifu fortress of the Southern Court was defeated by Sadayo IMAGAWA (Ryoshun) who was dispatched by Muromachi bakufu (Japanese feudal government headed by a shogun) and the Shoni clan restored Dazai-fu, but outcast by the Ouchi clan in the Sengoku period (period of warring states).

Government district

Excavation and research of the government district first began in 1943. As a result of the research, it was confirmed that there are ancient foundations of three different periods in the government district.
Overview of the foundation of each period is as follows:

The first period: from late seventh century to early eighth century. The period when Dazai-fu government district was founded. Dug-standing pillar buildings. It is subdivided into the old phase and new phase.

The second period: from early eighth century to the middle of 10th century. The period when Chodo-in (an office at the Heijo-kyo Palace) style was founded. Buildings built on foundation stones with tiled roof. The size of the governmental district was 111.6 meters from west to east and 188.4 meters from north to south, and the size of the cloister was 111.1 meters from west to east and 113.8 meters from north to south.

The third period: from the mid 10th century to 12th century. The period when Chodo-in (an office at the Heijo-kyo Palace) style was expanded. Buildings built on foundation stones with tiled roof.

Theories that 'the foundation stones that are currently visible are those when it was built', and 'it was never rebuilt after it was burned down in FUJIWARA no Sumitomo's War in 941' concerning the government district were mainstream before excavation and research. The first theory was rejected because there are foundations of later periods, and the second one is also currently denied because the fact of destruction by fire was proven by the layer of burned soil on the second-period foundation, however, it became clear that the third-period foundation was rebuilt in a bigger size.

The renovation from the first period to the second period corresponds to the establishment of the office as a government agency due to the ritsuryo system (a system of centralized government based on the ritsuryo code). Because the third period is when the ritsuryo system was lax, many researchers were surprised at that larger construction than the second-period buildings had been made, but currently, it is considered to correspond to expansion by local governmental officials who had a central role in operating the government.

Jobosei (a series of avenues running at right angles to each other)

Takeshi KAGAMIYAMA, who later became professor of Kyushu University, was the first person who supposed in 1937 that there had been jobosei in Dazai-fu. Assuming the government district was 方四町 and the Kanzeon-ji Temple district was 方三町, Kagamiyama pointed out that the southern border of them could be aligned on an east-west axis, and also he found that the distance between the eastern border of the government district and the western border of the Kanzeon-ji Temple district was equal to two Cho (approx. 218 meters), then he made a hypothesis that a city development plan based on the Cho unit existed and that many peripheral streets and causeways would match with the idea when he expanded the coverage of the plan. In addition, based on the analysis of street names described in ancient documents in Kanzeon-ji Temple, he supposed a jobo area (area with a series of avenues running at right angles to each other) that extends about 2.6 kilometers from west to east and about 2.4 kilometers from north to south, with 12 horizontal streets and 22 vertical streets. The actual state was 'a desk reconstruction plan' based on streets and causeways that existed in the 1930s, but its achievements to point out existence of city blocks in jobosei and to promote awareness of the academic society are significant. The Kagamiyama proposal is the most known reconstruction proposal in the present day, and most reconstruction diagrams introduced in books and Web sites for the general public are the Kagamiyama proposal.

Excavation and research within the area of the assumed jobosei area since then have been intermittently performed by the Fukuoka Prefectural Board of Education, Kyushu Historical Museum, Dazai-fu City Board of Education, and Tsukushino City Board of Education, with the following results:

For the time of the seventh century that corresponds to the first period of the government, no remains that can be linked to the existence of jobo have been confirmed.

For the time of eighth century that corresponds to the second period of the government, there are remains that are considered to be related to jobo mainly around the vertical central street (equivalent to Suzaku-oji Street) that runs from the central government to the south. In these remains, vertical streets are noticeable with few horizontal ones, so there is a possibility that the jobo area was not improved in a methodical way.

The jobo remains of the 10th century that correspond to the third period of the government exist in an area close to the area supposed by the Kagamiyama proposal. It seems that one block in this period is based on an area of 7928 square meters. It is thought that the remains including border ditches were buried during the period from the late 11th century to the early 12th century, and that blocks based on jobosei died out around this time.

Such situation can be understood as a process in which a city was gradually formed around the political center.

Currently the Kagamiyama proposal cannot be supported any more as it is, and newer jobo reconstruction proposals based on the result of excavation described above are presented by Akihiro KINDA, Nobumasa INOUE, and others.

On April 20, 2006, the Tsukushino City Board of Education announced that the remains of a street about 8-meter wide and side ditch had been found that is assumed to be the southern border of jobo, in a place about 1.7 kilometers south of the north end of the remains of Dazai-fu government. The City Board of Education supposes that these remains are the southern border of jobo based on the facts including that few remains have been found south of this location.

Ishikawa no okimi

He took sides with Prince Oama (Emperor Tenmu) in the Jinshin War, achieving great victories. He died of a disease in Kibi in 679 during the position of Kibi Dazai. Otani no. 1 tumulus (Okayama Prefecture), which is an unexampled five-stack square tumulus, is widely accepted to be his grave.

Kurikuma no okimi

A grandchild of Emperor Bidatsu (there is another theory that he was a great-grandchild). He was appointed to Tsukushi no kami, which is the predecessor of Dazai no sochi. During the Jinshin War, he said that Tsukushi army was against foreign enemies and should not be used for domestic fights and declared neutrality. As a result, he contributed to the victory of Prince Oama (Emperor Tenmu) and was valued by Emperor Tenmu, and built the foundation for his descendants to flourish as the Tachibana clan.

FUJIWARA no Hirotsugu

KIBI no Makibi

OTOMO no Tabito (665 - 731)

From 728 to 730, in his later years, he was Dazai no sochi. Right after he went to Dazai-fu, he lost his wife Iratsume.

OTOMO no Yakamochi


ONO no Minemori

He proposed to introduce Kueiden (lands directly managed by the government to secure revenues) in 823 when he was in the post of Dazai no daini, and incorporated Tane Province into Osumi Province in the following year 824.

SUGAWARA no Michizane

TACHIBANA no Kimiyori

TAIRA no Kiyomori (1158)

He became Dazai no daini.

Sukeyori MUTO (1159 - 1228)

Although he was a warrior, he was appointed to Dazai no shoni and became the founder of the Shoni clan.

Different opinions and popular beliefs

The Kyushu dynasty theory maintains that Dazai-fu was the capital (the City in Yamato) of the ancient Kitakyushu dynasty. However, there are no academic papers in refereed journals that discussed positively Kyushu Dynasty, and the Kyushu dynasty theory and related arguements are not regarded as scientific theories in general.


Take the community bus "Mahoroba" and get off at 'Dazai-fu Seicho Mae' bus stop.

Nearest station: Tofuro-mae Station on Nishitetsu Tenjin-Omuta Line (to which Mahoroba connects)

Parking available. However, because the parking spaces are small and parking is prohibited in the area around the remains of the government office, using public transportation is recommended.

National Route 3
Fukuoka Prefectural Route 76, Chikushino Dazai-fu IC

Information on nearby spots

Dazai-fu Museum

Ruins of Kurazukasa (taxation bureau)

Gassan (rokoku [water clock])

Gakkoin ruins (ruins of school)

Sakamoto-hachimangu Shrine

Tonokoga park

Dazai-fu forest

Climbing Mt. Shioji


Dazai-fu-tenmangu Shrine Autumn Festival (September 10 in the old lunar calendar)

Events etc.

Plum trees (February and March)

Cherry blossoms (near the end of March)

Hydrangea (June)

Dazai-fu Shiminseicho Festival (a festival held at the ruin of Dazai-fu governmental office) (October)

In early summer, fireflies can be seen at night.

Events such as Takigi-noh (Noh theater performed at night by a fire) and concerts of Ninth Symphony are held on an irregular base.

[Original Japanese]