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Kitanotenmangu Shrine, the Deity of Learning

Tomoe S.

by Tomoe S.

(106 reviews)
Last updated : May 12, 20225 min read

Travel Tips

If you wish your or your family members' success in examinations such as entrance examinations or qualification tests, I recommend you visit Kitanotenmangu Shrine in Kyoto. Not only from Kyoto but also from all over Japan, lots of people come here to pray for the deity of study. Many high school students come here on their school trips. 

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Kitanotenmangu Shrine, which is located in the northwest of Kyoto city, was built in the 10th century. This shrine enshrines Sugawara no Michizane as the deity. (This is the first shrine where an actual person was enshrined as a deity.)

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Sugawara no Michizane was a scholor, poet and politician (advisor of the Emperor Uda) in the 9th century. He is said to have been an extremely talented. He composed Waka (Japanese verse) at 5 and created his first Chinese character poem (Kanshi) at 11 years old. 

He became the Minister of Right (a kind of the Deputy Chiel Cabinet Secretary), however, was unfairly slandered and exiled to Fukuoka in Kyusyu by his political opponet, the Minister of Left. Michzane san died there...(We, Japanese people put 'san' after someone's name to show our respect.)

Shortly after his death, Kyoto had many disasters such as thunderstorms and earthquakes. People said that all of these natural disasters were Michizane's vengeful spirit. The Imperial Court tried to console his soul by giving him the posthumous name, Tenjin, built this shrine, revoked his demotion, and restored his official rank.

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We can find many cows in its precinct. (There are 15 cows in the precinct.) Cows are considered to be the messengers of the deity here. 

There are some reasons why cows were chosen as the messengers.  Michizane san is said to have been born in the year of cow and died in the year of cow.

Michizane san is worshipped as the deity of agriculture too, and therefore, cows which are the symbol of agriculture were chosen.

Michizane san took care of cows. Before he died, he told people not to make people pull his remains and just put him where the cows pull. After he died, cows suddenly stopped, lay down and wouldn't move when carrying him. That's why most of cows here are lying...

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You can find only one cow standing in the 'ranma', transom of 'Haiden', the front shrine (worship hall).

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This cow is said to have been waiting for his master for a long time in vain after he was exiled to Kyusyu and stopped blinking eyes since then. That's why this cow has red eyes. 

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Many people touch statue of cow wishing for good health. If you have a pain on your back, touch the cow's back and touch your back. 

Some parents let their children rub cows' head and then rub their children's head wishing they become smarter... The cows here have been rubbed by many people.  (Of course, I have come here with my parents, rubbed cows' head and my head many times when I was a small child...My daughters went to the kindergarten near this shrine and have visited here on their hiking several times. Maybe they rubbed the cows' head and their head many times...I hope they will take their children here and let them rub cows' head and their head in the near future...)

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You can find another cute cow here...

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Kitanotenmangu Shrine is also famous as 'plum-blossom viewing spot'.  It is said that Michizane san loved plum trees. There are so many plum trees of different kinds in the precinct. In February, many plum blossoms get in bloom in its plum garden.

There is a famous poem written by Michizane san when he was demoted and exiled to Kyusyu, parting reluctantly from the beloved plum blossoms in his garden. 

     Whenever the east wind blows, my dear plum blossoms   remember spring, even if your master won't be here

You can go to this shrine by bus directly from Kyoto station. During autumn, you can enjoy spectacular views of colored maple leaves in its 'Momijien'.

On the 25th day of each month, an antique market is held in this precinct.  If you are lucky to be in Kyoto on the 25th day of any month, it may be a good idea to visit this shrine...

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Tenjin san (Kitanotenmangu Shrine is affectionately called 'Tenjin san' by many people.) will always protect you warmly. 

(Feb, 2021)

 

     

 

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Tomoe S.

Tomoe S.

4.93 / 5
(106 reviews)

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