Region
Kansai
Island
Honshu
Largest City
Kyoto
Population
2,644,331

Kitano Tenmangu Shrine

With gorgeous plum and maple gardens, this famous shrine also has a bustling monthly market. Plus, get good luck for your studies!

Kitano Tenmangu is renowned throughout Japan as a shrine dedicated to learning, but its famous plum garden, as well as its maple trees and a bustling monthly market, provide the perfect timing for a visit.

Photo by: Kirsty Kawano This is the first shrine in Japan to have enshrined an actual person.

This is the first shrine in Japan to have enshrined an actual person – Sugawara no Michizane – a scholar and loyal adviser to a Heian Period (794 AD–1185) emperor. Political maneuvering by a court rival saw Michizane exiled to Kyushu, where he passed away a few years later. The story goes that shortly after his death, a series of natural disasters struck Kyoto and a number of Michizane’s rivals also met with ill fate. These events were seen as being caused by Michizane’s powerful spirit and the shrine was founded in 947 to appease his wrath.

People visit historical Kitano Tenmangu Shrine.

Michizane could read poetry at the age of five and wrote his own at 11. He is revered as a deity of learning and Japanese students buy amulets here to help them pass exams.

Photo by: Kirsty Kawano A healing cow at the shrine.

The current main shrine was constructed in 1607 by Toyotomi Hideyoshi and is a designated national treasure. The Ro-mon Gate and the Sanko-mon Gate were also built at the same time and all three feature golden decorations, detailed sculpting and vivid colors.

Stone lanterns line the path all the way from the first huge stone torii gate through to the main shrine. Along the way are a number of cow sculptures. To fix an ailing body part – so the custom goes – rub it and then the corresponding part of one of the cows.

Seasonal pleasures

Entrance to the shrine is free, but its seasonal gardens require an admission fee. The plum garden contains some 1,500 trees of about 50 varieties. Local maiko (apprentice to the geisha) come to serve at the tea ceremony that is held as part of the plum blossom festival on Feb. 25 each year.

Photo by: Kirsty Kawano Beautiful in autumn.

The shrine’s maple tree garden, or momoji-en, is well worth a visit when the leaves turn to red in late November.The trees are lit up from dusk until 8 p.m. during the peak autumn foliage season of mid-November to early December.  It is also open throughout May, when the fresh green leaves of spring contrast beautifully with the red Uguisu-bashi Bridge.

Grab some hearty Japanese street food, or other goods, on the 25th of each month at the bustling Tenjiin-san market of over 1,000 stalls that is held on the shrine grounds from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. From dusk, the shrine’s 350 stone lanterns and 250 hanging lanterns are lit, giving the place a whole new atmosphere.

Dig this scenery? Check out more temples in Japan.

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Things To Know

Hours

The shrine is open from 5 a.m. to 6 p.m. April to September and from 5:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. in October to March. The plum garden is open from early February to late March, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The maple tree garden is open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., and the trees are lit up from dusk until 8 p.m. during the peak autumn foliage season of mid-November to early December.  It is also open throughout May, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Fees

Entrance to the shrine is free. Plum garden admission costs ¥700 for adults and half that for children and includes complimentary tea and Japanese confectionary. Admission to the maple garden costs the same as for the plum garden. Admission for the tree illumination in autumn is ¥500 for adults, ¥150 for elementary school-age children and includes entrance to the shrine’s Treasure Hall.

How To Get There

Address

931 Bakurochō, Kamigyō-ku, Kyōto-shi, Kyōto-fu 602-8386, Japan

By bus

Take Kyoto City Bus number 50 or 101 from Kyoto station to the Kitano Tenmangu-mae stop. It will take about 35 minutes.

Where To Stay

Apartment in Kyoto 8608
  • Kamigyo-ku, Toriimaecho 664-47 Kyoto-Shi, Kyoto 602-8394
  • 0.1 km
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Apartment in Kyoto 1869
  • Kamigyo-ku, Toriimaecho 664-47 Kyoto-Shi, Kyoto 602-8393
  • 0.1 km
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Apartment in Toriimaecho 250
  • Kyoto-Shi, Kyoto 602-8393
  • 8.8/10
  • 0.1 km
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Mosaic Machiya KSK
  • Kamigyo-ku Shinseicho 702 Kyoto-Shi, Kyoto 602-8381
  • 9/10
  • 0.2 km
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