Dazaifu Tenmangu is widely known as the perfect place for students to pray for success in exams, but did you know that it is also famous for a legendary plum blossom called tobiume (flying plum)? Based on the tragic story of Sugawara no Michizane, a historic figure of the Heian era, who was unjustly banished from Kyoto and sent to Dazaifu. Legend has it a plum tree, touched by his story, flew to Dazaifu to follow the master. Now, the plum trees, 10 generations after the original, welcome you on both sides of the main building of the shrine. The plum tree is not only the symbol of Dazaifu Tenmangu but, more importantly, the flower of Fukuoka Prefecture.
As for the origin of plum trees, there are some competing theories. Some believe that they originally grew in the northern part of Kyushu; others believe the Japanese envoy to the Tang Dynasty brought them here with other items of Chinese culture, thinking them precious medication.
Plum blossoms begin to bloom, if the weather stays fine, in the middle of January, coming to full bloom in the middle of February. Tobiume, blooming a little earlier than the other 300 kinds, is cherished as a reminder of the coming of spring, and this, combined with uguisu (the bird whose song signals the arrival of spring), often appear on hanafuda (Japanese flower cards.)
From the middle of February to the middle of March is the perfect time to enjoy plum blossom viewing. Why not take up this fashionable pastime, before cherry blossom season?
Plum Blossom Spots
Dazaifu Tenmangu: 6,000 fragrant plum blossoms of various types.
Maizuru Koen: 200 white and 150 red plum blossoms, close to Ohori Koen and also famous for cherry blossoms.
Kofuji Bairin: 3,000 plum blossoms, with a fine view of the coastline in Itoshima.