The last place of my Kyushu travel (southernmost of the four main islands of Japan) was Fukuoka prefecture’s Dazaifu tenmangu shrine, because it is said in my family that this shrine’s god Michizane Sugawara was an ancestor of my family (I’m not sure it is true or not. His era was about 1100 years ago, it was too old.) He loved Japanese apricots, so his shrine’s symbol is this blossom. My father said our family crest was also Japanese apricot. I enjoyed to find a lot of apricot mark in the shrine. Yesterday (June 25, 2012’s blog) I introduced the legend of “flying apricot”, but there are another story. When Michizane was relegated to Dazaifu from Kyoto, his residence’s trees felt sorry and lamented. Cherry blossoms was dead for the grief, and a pine tree and an apricot decided to follow their master Michizane. Although a pine tree got tired in the midst of flying from Kyoto, it fell down in Suma of Hyogo prefecture. Now it is called “flying pine tree town” (Tobi-matsu). The only apricot was success to fly to Dazaifu.
In 903, Michizane was dead in Dazaifu, who never went back his hometown Kyoto. When his follower sent his body to the temple by the ox carriage, suddenly the ox stopped and sat down. They thought it was Michizane’s will to stop this place to set his tomb, therefore they made his grave there. After that, people constructed the Michizane’s shrine over his tomb. (Shrine ordinary doesn’t have a tomb in it, there is only soul.) Michizane’s twelve zodiac signs was an ox, too. Consequently an ox is special animal for this shrine. You can find many ox statues.
The other animal in this shrine is a bullfinch bird, Japanese name “uso”. It is said that this bird ate bees when Michizane was attacked by bees. They sell a wooden bullfinch doll for getting a good luck for this year instead of last year’s bad luck.