Today’s journey starts at Fukuoka, the gateway to Kyushu. Fukuoka is the biggest city in Kyushu.
To save travel time, this trip will be done using a rental car instead of using public transportation. For foreigners like myself, it might be difficult to communicate with a Japanese, but for this rental car experience, we were able to easily avail of a rental car. As long as you have a passport and an international license, and after simply entering your information and filling out a form, you’re good to go. Instructions are simple and written in the English language.
As expected, one doesn't go to war on an empty stomach. We had lunch at a restaurant called Sushi Ei. The sushi restaurant’s interior is very Japanese-like, with everyone sitting on a tatami mat while having a meal. After our meal, we went to Dazaifu Tenmangu, a 5-minute walk from Sushi Ei.
Dazaifu Tenmangu is believed to house the god that has a long-standing history and association with the god of education and good luck. It houses Sugawara no Michizane, a deity that famous academicians, poets and politicians pray to. Japanese, as well as foreign tourists, come to pray at Dazaifu Tenmangu. The shrine is surrounded by plum trees. This is because it is said that Sugawara no Michizane liked to write poems about plum trees. I think it would be great to visit Dazaifu and pray to the god of education during plum season, when the plums are in bloom.
When you pray, it is good to throw in a five-yen coin. The number “5” represents the five conditions of good luck and happiness for the Japanese. Also, a must-try for tourists that come to Dazaifu would be the umegaemochi. This umegaemochi (azuki beans in mochi cake) can only be bought and eaten in Dazaifu. Taken with pickled plums and matcha, the cake becomes surprisingly tastier.
The Dazaifu Tenmangu Shrine
umegaemochi, pickled plum and green tea set
The inside of an umegaemochi
Dazaifu houses not only a shrine where you can pray for education and good luck; there is also a shrine where you can wish and pray for good luck in love. If you are single and you would like to pray for a now-budding romance to grow into a better relationship, then by all means, come and pray here! This shrine of love is called Kamado Shrine. It was built on the foot of Mt. Houman, and is said to grant any wish of love. You can also see a beautiful view of the mountains from here.
Ureshino Onsen Warakuen
Coming to Fukuoka, we had the chance to visit and pray for our studies and our love lives to get better. From these two shrines in Fukuoka where I have been blessed by two deities, we continued to the onsen (hot springs) in Ureshino City, Saga Prefecture. This onsen is one of Japan’s three most popular spa onsen for beautiful skin. The onsen water contains components that of green tea. This green tea component, once it enters the body, is said to make the skin look beautiful and smooth.
Finally, we were able to sample a local specialty, buttered Saga beef. Biting into it, it is easy to chew, soft and very chewy, and doesn’t smell at all. Although this premium-grade beef also has a premium price, the taste is more than that of what you’ve paid for, and you will never forget its taste as it lingers on your tongue.