If you visit Sendai between late February and late March, head to Tsutsujigaoka Tenmangū Shrine (榴岡天満宮) to adore the lovely plum blossoms. Just like all the Tenmangū shrines in Japan, Tsutsujigaoka Tenmangū enshrines Sugawara no Michizane (菅原道真). Because plum blossom is Michizane’s favorite flower, plum trees are planted here and there in the shrine’s precinct.
Tsutsujigaoka Tenmangū was originally located in Kyoto when it was erected in 974. Thanks to the 3rd lord of the Sendai Domain, Date Tsunamune (伊達綱宗), the shrine finally settled at where it is now in 1667 after a couple of relocations. The vermillion lacquered Karamon Gate and worship hall were all completed with the relocation.
In 1876, it was one of the spots where Emperor Meiji visited when he visited the Tōhoku region.
Because Michizane was a highly regarded scholar in the Heian period (794 – 1185). Pilgrims visit Tsutsujigaoka Tenmangū to pray for passing exams and academic excellence.
Passing the baton in early April, the gorgeous flowers of cherry trees decorate Tsutsujigaoka Tenmangū’s ground, and many flocks to the shrine to adore the scenery.
The Cows Statues at Tsutsujigaoka Tenmangū
When you visit the shrine, you will encounter three cow statues. They are Michizane’s messengers, and it is said that stroking them will make you smarter and help you achieve your academic goals.
Note two of the cow statues are surrounded by 12 small round stones, each with Japanese characters engraved. Check with the staff to find the stone with your zodiac and birth month written. Those are the stones you will want to touch for extra blessings (^_-)-☆.
If you want to know more about how Michizane got deified, why there are cow statues in the shrine’s precinct, and an interesting episode between Michizane and a plum tree, please refer to our Dazaifu Tenmangū article.
The Bird Statue at Tsutsujigaoka Tenmangū’s Purification Fountain
Also, you will notice a wooden doll when you purify yourself at the shrine’s purification fountain. It is called Uso (鶯), a messenger bird of the god.
On the 14th and the 25th of January, there is a ritual called Usokaeshinji (鷽替え神事). It is a ritual that turns terrible things that happened in the past year into something good in the following year. The benefit of the ritual is so unreal that people say it is almost like “lying” (also pronounced as uso in Japanese).
Tip: If you are a Goshuin collector, arrive at the shrine by 9 am when the Usokaeshinji for the limited edition Goshuin.
The Wish-Granting Tube (願い叶い筒)
Instead of the ema plaque, an interesting way to let god know your wishes at Tsutsujigaoka Tenmangū is through the Wish-Granting Tube.
You can purchase one of these colorful tubes from the shrine and write your wish before hanging it on the designated rack for the god to read.
Tsutsujigaoka Park (榴岡公園)
Just next to Tsutsujigaoka Tenmangū, Tsutsujigaoka Park is one of the best cherry blossom spots in Sendai.
It is said that Sendai’s cherry tree planting started when the 4th lord of the Sendai Domain brought back 1,000 weeping cherry saplings from Kyoto.
After the Sendai air raid in World War Two, the cherry trees become Sendai citizens’ emotional support. So more and more cherry trees were planted. Because even if there was nothing left, at least they still had their gorgeous cherry blossoms.
In April, the cherry blossom festival is held. Food stalls are set up during the festival, and night-time light-up is from 6 pm to 9 pm.
How to Get to Tsutsujigaoka Tenmangū and Tsutsujigaoka Park
- Tsutsujigaoka Tenmangū is a 15-minute walk from JR Sendai Station (仙台駅) and a 3-minute walk from JR Tsutsujigaoka Station (榴ヶ岡駅).
- If you plan to use Sendai Subway, it is around a 10-minute walk from Miyagino-Dōri Station (宮城野通駅).
Discover Other Fantastic Attractions in Sendai
You might not be aware of it, but Sendai, the Tōhoku region‘s biggest city, receives more than 20 million tourists each year!
So if you want to find out how Sendai managed to attract so many people to visit it, refer to our article on Sendai, which is filled with historical, cultural, and natural attractions (=ﾟωﾟ)ﾉ.