Kitano-tenmangu Shrine (北野天満宮)

Kitano-tenmangu Shrine is a Shinto shrine in Kamigyo-ku Ward, Kyoto City. It is also known as Tenjin-san (heavenly gods) and Kitano-san. It was formerly classified as a Kanpei Chusha shrine (middle-scale government shrines). It is affectionately known as 'Tenjin-san' by the people of Kyoto.

The main enshrined deity SUGAWARA no Michizane is accompanied by Chujo-dono (SUGAWARA no Takami, the first child of Michizane) and Kisshonyo (the lawful wife of Michizane). A festival is held on the 25th of every month and the temple receives many worshippers and tourists. As the enshrined deity is known as the patron of scholarship, the shrine is also popular with students preparing for examinations. Kyoto City is a city of universities and many of Ema (a votive horse tablet) for getting through a university entrance examination hang in the shrine. Along with Dazaifu-tenmangu Shrine in Fukuoka Prefecture, Kitano-tenmangu Shrine is central to faith in Tenjin, and the divided enshrined deity has been ceremonially transferred from the shrine to new locations throughout the country.

After SUGAWARA no Michizane passed away in 903 in Dazaifu where he was wrongly exiled, a succession of accidents occurred in the capital Kyoto such as lightening strikes. Rumors spread that the disasters were brought by a curse of Michizane, and linked to Goryo-shinko (a folk religious belief of avenging spirits), people feared his vengeful spirit. 20 years after his death, the Imperial Court revoked his demotion, restored his official rank and conferred upon him Shonii (Senior Second Rank). According to an oracle in 942 which came to a young lady named TAJIHI no Ayako who lived in Shichijo of Ukyo, the shrine pavilions enshrining Michizane were built in Kitano, the current location, by the Imperial Court in June 29, 947. It is said that FUJIWARA no Morosuke (a nephew of FUJIWARA no Tokihira and the son of FUJIWARA no Tadahira who is said to be a relative of the Sugawara clan) later donated the buildings of his residence to rebuild the magnificent shrine pavilions.

The first festival was held by Imperial order in 987 and the name 'Kitano-tenmangu Tenjin' was granted to the shrine by Emperor Ichijo. Shoichii (Senior First Rank), Udaijin (minister of the right) and Dajo-daijin (Grand minister of state) were additionally conferred in 993. The shrine later became highly revered by the Imperial Court and it became one of the Twenty-Two Shrines.

Even during the medieval period, the shrine was highly revered by not only the Sugawara clan and the Fujiwara clan but also the Ashikaga Shogunate family. However, Kitano-tenmangu Shrine at the time was the proprietor of the Koji-za (guild of koji (rice malt) manufacturers), and a dispute regarding exclusive rights of manufacturing koji led to an attack in 1444 by the Muromachi bakufu (Japanese feudal government headed by a shogun) in which the shrine was burned to the ground and temporarily plunged into a period of decline (The Koji Crisis of the Bunan Era).

On October 1, 1587, the Great Kitano Tea Gathering was held in the precinct by Hideyoshi TOYOTOMI. A historic site 'Odoi' (an earthen rampart) is in the western side of the shrine precinct.

During the Edo period, the image of Michizane as a vengeful spirit began to lose favor as he came to be regarded as the patron of scholars, and divisions of Kitano-tenmangu Shrine's Tenjin deity enshrined in Terakoya (private elementary schools in Edo period).

In 1871, the shrine was raised to the rank of Kanpei Chusha, and with this, its name was forced to be changed to 'Kitano-jinja.'
The reasons of renaming was that to address the shrine with the suffix '-gu,' used in the former name, the enshrined deity had to be basically a member of the Imperial household and also the Imperial Court authorized the shrine using the suffix. The shrine's former name of Kitano-tenmangu was restored after the abolition of Governmental Control of State Shinto after the Second World War.

In 1912, Kyoto City Streetcars started to run between the shrine and Kyoto Station on the Horikawa-line (commonly known as the Kitano-line). The Keifuku Electric Railway Co. Kitano-Line ran to the front of Kitano-tenmangu Shrine until 1958 when it came to stop at Hakubaicho Station (renamed Kitano Hakubaicho station at the time) on the pretext of turning over the Kitano-Hakubaicho route to Kyoto City Streetcars due to the construction of the Imadegawa Line.

Cultural Properties

National Treasures

Main Shrine, Ishi-no-ma (a stone room), worship hall, Raku-no-ma room (all combined into one building)
8 volumes of Kitano Tenjin Engi (history of Kitano Tenjin), color painting on paper (including 1 volume of sketch and 1 makie (lacquered craft) box made of ume (plum) tree)

Important Cultural Properties

Central Gate (Three Light Gate)
3 cloisters
Back gate
2 Sukibei (transparent fences)
Eastern gate
3 volumes of Kitano Tenjin Engi (History of Kitano Tenjin), Koanbon (books painted in Koan era), color painting on paper
3 volumes of Kitano Tenjin Engi (History of Kitano Tenjin) by Mitsunobu TOSA, color painting on paper
3 volumes of Kitano Tenjin Engi (History of Kitano Tenjin), painted by Mitsuoki TOSA, color painting on paper
2 Bugaku-zu (paintings of traditional Japanese court music accompanied by dancing), color painting on silk
Unryu-zu (painting of dragon and clouds), monochrome ink painting on paper
Votive tablet with an illustration of Shoshun Benkei on horseback, painted by Tohaku HASEGAWA, gold and silver color painting on board
13 wooden statues of demon gods
Tachi Sword inscribed Yasutsuna (Onikiri)
Tachi Sword inscribed Bishu Osafune Moromitsu, the year 9 in the Oei era (rest unclear)
Tachi Sword inscribed Sukemori
Tachi Sword inscribed Tsunetsugu
Katana sword inscribed Kitano Tenman Tenjin Toyotomi Hideyori-ko Gozoei no tera tokini keicho juni teibi juichi gappi (Kitano Tenman Tenjin Shrine was erected by Hideyori TOYOTOMI in November of the year of 12, the Keicho era), Shinano no kami Kunihiro Zo (Created by Kunihiro of Shinano no kami (Governor of Shinano Province))
28 volumes of Nihon Shoki
Golden Light of the Most Victorious Kings Sutra, Gold lettering on purple paper, autographed Emperor Gouda manuscript


Teahouse Shokoken
Historic site Odoi
Sangaku: Dedicated to both Imanishi Shoemon Shigeyuki and Iida Busuke Masanari, and hung at Emado in 1686. Sangaku (Japanese votive tablets featuring mathematical puzzles) : Dedication from eleven people such as Junai SHINMYO, Harumitsu MIMUROTO and Yasukiyo KURAHASHI in 1878, hung at Ema-do Hall (shrine building where votive picture tablets are hanged).

Main Events
Niju-go-nichi-sai Festival (flea market) : 25th of each month
Fude-Hajime-sai Festival (First calligraphy of the year) : January 2
Baika-sai Festival (Plum Festival) : February 25
Kigan Ema Shono shiki Ceremony (Ceremony of Burning Ema): April 19
Kaminariyoke Taisai (Thunder Avoidance Festival) : June 1
Gotanshin-sai Festival (Birthday Celebration of Lord Sugawara Michizane) : June 25
Mitarashi sai or Tanabata sai (Star Festival): July 7
Rei-taisai (regular rites and festivals): August 4
Zuiki matsuri (Vegetable Decoration Festival) : October 1 - 5
Yokou-sai (Festival to commemorate SUGAWARA no Michizane's poetry) : October 29
Kencha-sai (Tea ceremony) : December 1
Shimai Tenjin (last shrine market of the year) : December 25
Events of Omisoka (New Year's Eve): December 31

Soon reached on foot from 'Mitano Tenmangu mae' bus stop of Kyoto City Bus.

The shrine's northern gate stands near Hirano-jinja Shrine, famous for its sakura cherry blossom, and the Kinugasako mae bus stop on Nishi Oji-dori Street can be reached by passing through Hirano-jinja Shrine from the northern gate.

Ume and Bulls

Kitano-tenmangu Shrine and SUGAWARA no Michizane have a deep relationship with ume and bulls.

Michizane was very fond of ume and composed the waka (a traditional Japanese poem of thirty-one syllables) to the ume tree in his garden, 'Kochi fukaba Nioi okoseyo ume no hana aruji nasitote haruna wasureso (recently haruwo wasuruna)' (Whenever the east wind blows, my dear plum blossoms remember spring, even if your master won't be here), following his demotion and exile to Dazaifu. The ume tree of the shrine's crest comes from the Legend of Tobiume (flying ume tree), which tells that the ume tree so longed to be with SUGAWARA no Michizane that one night it flew to Dazaifu. It is for this reason that numerous ume trees grow within the shrine precinct. (an ume tree forest grows outside of the romon gate (two-storey gate) and is open to the public for a fee when in season). These trees blossom at the same time of year as the school examination season so it is during this period that the shrine receives the greatest number of students and their families in addition to increased numbers of tourists who visit to see the ume blossom.

Tenman-gu Shrine also enshrines the bull as a shinshi (a messenger of the enshrined deity) as there are many legends that link Michizane to the bull, including those that claim that 'Michizane was born in the year of the bull (in chinese calendar),' 'died on the day of the bull in the month of the bull (in chinese calendar),' 'Michizane rode a bull to Dazaifu,' 'a bull saved Michizane from an assassin,' and 'a bull decided the location of Minchizane's grave (Dazaifu Tenman-gu Shrine).'
It is not known which are true and which are merely legend but the grounds of Kitano-tenmangu Shrine contain many statues of bulls in a lying down position that are believed to serve as shinshi. Of these legends, the one that 'a bull saved Michizane from an assassin' is recognized strong relation with the wild boar legend of Go-jinja Shrine enshrining WAKE no Kiyomaro.

[Original Japanese]