Dazaifu © JNTO
In the northern part of Kyushu Island, in southwestern Japan, lie the ruins of Dazaifu, a city that during the 1st century was the seat of government for the island and first line of defence against threat from the East Asian countries. The walled city once stood in open fields, but now the ruins on the southern slopes of Mount Ono are surrounded by modern Dazaifu, and the valued historic site has been turned into a park. Apart from the interesting ruins, Dazaifu also boasts one of Japan's most important shrines. The Dazaifu-tenmangu Shrine is dedicated to a great scholar named Sugawara Michizane, who died in the year 903 and subsequently became revered as a deity because of his wisdom. The shrine is now a place of pilgrimage for students from all over the country, especially when examination season comes around. The approach to the shrine is lined with teahouses specialising in a local rice cake delicacy, which is believed to keep illness at bay. The ancient Komyozenji Temple, situated close to the shrine, is also worth a visit, mainly for the stunning gardens, which are particularly beautiful in the autumn when the leaves turn a magnificent array of colours.