Dazaifu is a small town just 15km from Fukuoka and a popular half-day destination for visitors to this part of Kyushu.


The town’s main highlight is its Tenman-gu Shrine, dedicated to a ninth century scholar, poet and court official named Michizane who was exiled to Dazaifu from Kyoto after falling victim to court intrigues. He died here in 903, in misery, and the shrine was built on his grave, although the current building is a more recent construction dating from 1591.


Among other things Michizane, or Tenjin, to use his deified name, is said to be a Shinto deity of education and today high school students (and their ambitious mothers) come to pray for good examination results and leave their hopes and wishes attached to trees in the shrine garden.


The gardens are beautiful though rather crowded with coach loads of Chinese tourists on the day of our visit. To avoid the crowds we walked up a small hill where a procession of red torii gates leads up to a small shrine and cave-like altar.


Elsewhere in the shrine grounds is a lake with an island spanned by two gracefully curved bridges. There are 6,000 plum trees here which burst into colour in early Spring.


Other attractions in Dazaifu include the Komyozenji temple with a dry stone Zen garden and a tree-planted moss garden renowned for its autumn colours.


There are also a couple of museums here including the ultra modern Kyushu National Museum.

The street leading from the railway station is lined with interesting shops selling souvenirs, snack foods and, a family favourite, Totoro merchandise.


Dazaifu is definitely worth a visit, even if you are not sitting for your exams.


Totoro at Tokyo Sky Tree

Tokyo Sky Tree

Tokyo Sky Tree is a fairly new addition to Tokyo’s skyline, having opened to the public in May 2012.

The Guinness World Records (GWR) book ranks it as the tallest tower in the world with a height of 634m, which makes it about twice as high as the Eiffel Tower but it is still dwarfed by Dubai’s Burj Khalifa (828m), the world’s tallest building.

If you are wondering what is the difference between a tower and a building, GWR defines a tower as a building in which usable floor space occupies less than 50% of its height.



This CNN graphic below compares heights of the tallest structures, including Sky City, a mega tower scheduled to be completed next year in Changsha, Hunan, China.tallest-buildings

When Tokyo Sky Tree first opened, tickets to the observation decks were sold out months in advance. When we went last month there was not much queuing at all but it was still fairly busy.

As you might be able to make out from my photo, there is a lower observation deck level around 350m up and a higher deck at 450m. You pay more for the higher level. We only went up as far as the lower deck where it was already too high up to get a decent photo with my limited skills and lack of tripod.

View of Tokyo from Sky Tree Floor 350.They have some clever touch-panel displays which can zoom in on particular districts, switch from night view to daytime view, provide information on points of interest and show speeded up time-lapse shots of a 24 hour cycle.

There is also a glass floor section for thrill seekers.Cool gadgets at Tokyo Sky Tree

While we enjoyed the Sky Tree, my kids preferred the Studio Ghibli shop which is located in the Solamachi shopping complex at the foot of the tower.

Studio Ghibli merch

Studio Ghibli are the creators of Totoro, Spirited Away and other classic Japanese animated films.

Totoro at Tokyo Sky TreeNo Face at Tokyo Sky Tree

Cat Bus at Tokyo Sky TreeMei chan at Tokyo Sky Tree

The shop sells stacks of official merchandise and Mums and Dads have little chance of exiting the shop with wallets intact.

For Totoro Fans

A good place for Totoro fans!

The shopping centre also has a food court and an excellent supermarket where we spotted this cuboid watermelon selling for a cool Yen 20,000 (USD200).

Square Melons at Tokyo Solamachi

This rather risqué sign looked a little out of place in the supermarket’s bakery section.

I would definitely recommend a trip to the Sky Tree while in Tokyo.

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