Translated by Verity Lane
Japanese Encyclopedia: Tenmangu
Written by MATCHA
In this series of articles, we aim to explain some Japanese terms which may be difficult for non-locals. Here we look at "Tenmangu" and the God of Learning.
Tenmangu Shrines refer to a type of shrine that worships Michizane Sugawara, a nobleman from the 9th century. There are more than 12,000 Tenmangu shrines over the whole of Japan. Japanese people refer to these places of worship affectionately as Tenman sama or Tenman-san. In Japan, "sama" and "san" are honorific suffixes that show respect to the object or individual. "Sama" is very polite, whereas the "san" suffix is less formal, indicating a sense of closeness.
Tenmangu Shrines are Extremely Popular with Students About to Take Exams
Michizane Sugawara was not a gifted political figure, but he was a fine scholar, which meant that he became more widely known as the God of Learning
The three shrines Hofu-Tenmangu (Hofu City, Yamaguchi Prefecture), Dazaifu-Tenmangu (Dazai City, Fukuoka Prefecture) and Kitano-Tenmangu (Kamigyo-ku, Kyoto City) are known as the Three Great Tenjin Shrines of Japan (日本三天神, Nihon San Tenjin). They are visited by many students, particularly over the spring exam season, in the hope of securing a good exam result.
Every Tenmangu shrine has a statue of a cow, which is said to be the messenger of Michizane Sugawara. Visitors to the shrine believe that rubbing ailing areas on one's own body first, then rubbing the exact same spots on the statue, will subsequently cause it to heal. It is also believed that rubbing the cows head will make you smarter, so it is very popular with students awaiting their exams. This practice is called "Nade-ushi", which is an abbreviation of the words "rub" (naderu) and "cow" (ushi).
Have a Blast at Osaka's Tenjin Festival
From times of old, the Osaka Tenmangu Shrine (Kita district, Osaka city), abbreviated to "tenma no Tenjin san" by the locals, is famous for its festival.
The Tenma Festival takes place yearly from July 24th to 25th, coming alive with over one million visitors every year. It boasts more than 1,000 years of history, and is also one of the three major summer festivals in Osaka. The omikoshi (portable shrine) is placed in the nearby shopping arcade, the Yodogawa river is full of boats, and there are a huge amount of food stalls dotted about the area. The climax has to be when the fireworks light up the night sky.
With the sounds of the percussion-based festival band, which the Japanese people describe using the onomatopoeic expression "Konkon-Chikichiki", it makes people feel that summer has truly arrived.