With a history spanning over 1,100 years, Fukuoka prefecture's Dazaifu Tenmangu is one of Japan’s most important Shinto shrines dedicated to culture, education and the arts. It’s built over the burial site of the Heian period (794-1185) scholar and poet Sugawara no Michizane, who was posthumously deified as Tenjin, the god that the shrine is dedicated to.
In anticipation of the 1,125th anniversary of Sugawara in 2027, the shrine has decided to renovate its main hall for the first time in 124 years. Construction for the renovation project is now underway and is expected to take three years due to the complexities involved in restoring and preserving the framework of the 430-year-old building.
To give visitors a place to worship until the main hall is complete, the shrine commissioned Sou Fujimoto Architects, who is also leading the design for the site of Expo 2025 in Osaka, to build a temporary hall as a placeholder for the main shrine building.
The substitute shrine building opened to the public on May 14 and will remain until renovations for the main shrine buildings are completed in 2026. With an ash-black foundation and a sloped garden roof designed to merge with the shrine’s natural surroundings, the modern hall is simple and striking. Unlike the shrine’s original main hall, visitors can enter this structure without removing their shoes.
Adding to the structure's allure is its rooftop garden, adorned with flora like the plum trees that can also be found within the shrine precincts. This living roof is ever-evolving, with seasons and weather imbuing it with a fresh perspective on every encounter.
It's a shame that this architectural masterpiece will only be around briefly. However, this temporary structure boasts an undeniable charm, making it a worthy detour on any trip to Fukuoka.
Find out more about Daizaifu Tenmangu here.
This article was originally published on December 12 2022 and updated on May 16 2023.
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