Dazaifu and Yanagawa
After arriving in Dazaifu one thing you immediately realize when walking down the shopping street are the toris standing there over the path.
In the shopping street is a Starbucks in a building with special architecture. It’s a crossover between tradition and modern times, as it is made with wood, which is traditionally used as material to build houses in Japan but with modern forms. The architect was Kengo Kuma, who is also the architect of the New National Stadium in Tokio for the Olympic Games in 2020.
In Dazaifu is a red bridge, called Taiko-Bridge, that consists of three parts. The first arched section represents the past, the flat part the present and the second arched section the future. It is build in typical Buddhist architecture, which reflects the opinion that only one thought should be held at a given time. The bridge should be passed slowly and with respect because it is seen as a solemn act.
At the main hall of the Dazaifu Tenmangue shrine you can pray. People use this shrine mostly when they pry for educational success, like passing a test for school or university. In front of the shrine are plum trees. There are lots of plum trees, but the most famous one stands in front of the main hall on the right side. It is said that when Michizane left Kyoto to live in exile, it uprooted itself and followed him. Now it is the first one everyone to blossom every year, but when I was there it was already withered. The plum trees either blossom in white or pink. And it looks really great.
On the left side of the shrine a giant Kusonoki, a Camphor tree, is towering. The tree is more than 1000 years old. Camphor which is made from the leaves is used as insect repellent.
The town is also famous for its Umegae Mochi. There are a lots of shops selling those freshly made Mochis filled with red bean paste. In the shopping street there are also lots of shops selling souvenirs. The town is a tourist town, and it’s mostly visited by Korean and Chinese people.
After leaving Dazaifu we drove to Yanagawa. It was a kind of long way, we needed more than an hour.
First we had lunch there. I had a plate with different Japanese food, a bowl of rice and soup. It did taste really good.
Afterwards we went on a boat cruise on the canal. A boatwoman was guiding the boat with a long pole. Because of those boats on the canal some people call Yanagawa the Venice of Fukuoka. The cruise took about 40 minutes. It was really great. We heard explanations about the town and also about the job of a boatman. The one guiding our boat was a woman, but most of them are men. The oldest one is 83, the youngest 18. She also sang a song about Yanagawa, but normally she sings more famous songs, like those from Mangas. The route of the boat was really interesting, we saw things of the town from a different perspective. Something uncommon about this boat cruise was that there were branches and bridges this low over the water that we had to duck down for us to fit under the bridges and branches and the boatwoman walked over a bridge and jumped back in the boat. In the end the boatwoman asked if anyone of us wanted to try guiding the boat. Me and two of the others tried it. Later someone told me that in normally they don’t offer to try it, so it was something really special and I think it was fun.
Than we went to the place with the best view on the Shoto-en garden. It’s a Japanese-style garden with 280 black pines, 1500 garden stones and 14 stone lanterns centering around a pond. It was a really great view, looking down from the building at this garden.
It was the day of Hinamatsuri, the Girl’s Festival. To celebrate they showed platforms covered with a red carpet-material with hina-ningyō, ornamental dolls, situated on it. Those represent the Emperor, Empress, attendants, and musicians. These dolls are dressed in clothes of the Heian period. They also show those dolls allover the town.
At this place there are also shops that are selling lots of souvenirs and sweets, including sweets that are especially eaten by the time of Hinamatsuri.
The Tachibana Museum which we also visited shows the 400-year-old furnishings of the Tachibana family and the armor of the first lord and more.