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Mythical Creatures: Sugawara no Michizane

Sugawara no Michizane is a prominent figure in Japanese mythology and history. He was a scholar, poet, and politician of the Heian Period of Japan. He is known for his exceptional talent in poetry, particularly in waka and kanshi poetry. Today, he is revered in Shinto as the god of learning, Tenman-Tenjin (天満天神, often shortened to Tenjin).

According to legend, Sugawara no Michizane was exiled and died in disgrace due to political intrigue. After his death, the capital city of Kyoto was plagued by natural disasters and misfortunes. It was believed that these disasters were caused by the vengeful spirit of Sugawara no Michizane, who had been wrongfully accused and punished. As a result, he was deified as Tenjin, the god of learning, and many shrines were built in his honor throughout Japan.

In Japanese folklore, Sugawara no Michizane is often depicted as a powerful and vengeful spirit. He is said to possess the ability to cause natural disasters and misfortunes to those who wronged him. Despite his fearsome reputation, he is also revered as a patron of scholars, students, and intellectuals. His story is a testament to the enduring power of myth and legend in Japanese culture.

Life of Sugawara no Michizane

Historical Background

Sugawara no Michizane was born in 845 in the Heian period of Japan. He was born into a family of scholars who had a hereditary title of Ason. His family was known for their knowledge of classical Chinese language and poetry. Michizane used his knowledge to become an ambassador to the mainland.

Political Career

Michizane’s political career began when he was appointed to the position of governor of Sanuki province. He quickly gained a reputation as a fair and effective governor. He was later appointed to the position of governor of Tango province and then to the position of minister of the right. He was known for his intelligence and his ability to write poetry.

Exile and Death

Michizane’s political career came to an abrupt end when he was accused of plotting against the emperor. He was exiled to Kyushu and died there in 903. After his death, he was deified as Tenjin, the god of scholarship. Many people still visit his shrine in Kyoto to pray for success in their studies.

In conclusion, Sugawara no Michizane was a scholar, poet, and politician who lived during the Heian period of Japan. Despite his many accomplishments, his political career came to an end when he was exiled and died in disgrace. Nevertheless, his contributions to Japanese culture are still celebrated today.

Deification and Worship

Tenjin Faith

Sugawara no Michizane, also known as Tenjin, was a scholar, poet, and politician of the Heian period in Japan. After his death, he was deified and worshipped as the patron of scholarship, literature, and the arts. The Tenjin faith is a Shinto cult dedicated to the spirit of Michizane, who is revered as a god of wisdom, intelligence, and learning.

Shrines and Temples

Tenjin shrines and temples are scattered throughout Japan, and they are popular destinations for students and scholars seeking good luck and success in their studies. The most famous Tenjin shrine is the Kitano Tenmangu in Kyoto, which was built in 947 and enshrines the spirit of Michizane. The shrine is known for its beautiful gardens, historic architecture, and annual festivals, which attract thousands of visitors.

In addition to the Kitano Tenmangu, there are hundreds of other Tenjin shrines and temples throughout Japan, ranging from small roadside shrines to large complexes with multiple buildings and gardens. Many of these shrines and temples offer charms and amulets for good luck and success in academics, as well as special prayers and rituals for students and scholars.

Overall, the Tenjin faith and the worship of Sugawara no Michizane continue to be an important part of Japanese culture and tradition, and they serve as a reminder of the enduring legacy of this great scholar and poet.

Mythical Creatures Associated with Michizane

Sugawara no Michizane, a prominent scholar, poet, and politician of the Heian Period in Japan, is often associated with various mythical creatures. Here are some of the creatures that are commonly associated with him:

White Foxes

White foxes, also known as “kitsune,” are said to be messengers of the god of learning, Tenman-Tenjin, who is believed to be the deified form of Michizane. According to legend, Michizane was fond of foxes and often fed them. It is said that after he died, the foxes mourned his death and transformed into white foxes as a sign of respect.

Bulls and Cattle

Bulls and cattle are also associated with Michizane. According to legend, when Michizane was exiled, he rode on the back of a bull. It is said that the bull carried him all the way to his place of exile. As a result, bulls and cattle are often depicted in artwork and statues of Michizane.

Overall, Michizane’s association with these mythical creatures highlights his importance in Japanese folklore and culture.

Legends and Folklore

Thunder God

Sugawara no Michizane is revered in Shinto as the god of learning, Tenman-Tenjin. According to legend, he was a scholar, poet, and politician of the Heian Period of Japan. He is particularly renowned for his skill in waka and kanshi poetry. However, Michizane’s life was not without controversy. He was falsely accused of treason and exiled to Kyushu, where he died in 903.

After his death, the capital was struck by a series of natural disasters, including thunderstorms and lightning strikes. The people of Kyoto believed that these events were a manifestation of Michizane’s anger at his unjust exile and death. They began to worship him as a thunder god, and his spirit was enshrined in various temples and shrines throughout Japan.

Miraculous Events

Many miraculous events have been attributed to Sugawara no Michizane. One of the most famous stories involves a plum tree that he is said to have planted in his garden. According to legend, the tree was so beloved by Michizane that it uprooted itself and flew to Kyushu after he was exiled there.

Another story tells of a man who was falsely accused of a crime and sentenced to death. The man prayed to Michizane for help, and the god appeared to him in a dream, telling him to recite a certain poem. The man did as he was instructed, and the poem miraculously cleared his name.

These stories and others like them have made Sugawara no Michizane a beloved figure in Japanese folklore. Even today, many people visit his shrines and temples to pray for success in their studies or to ask for his protection against lightning strikes and other natural disasters.

Cultural Impact


Sugawara no Michizane’s literary contributions have left a lasting impact on Japanese culture. His poetry and scholarly works have been studied and admired for centuries. His exile and tragic fate have also inspired many works of fiction, including novels and plays. One of the most famous works is the play “Kanjincho,” which tells the story of Michizane’s escape from Kyoto disguised as a priest.


Sugawara no Michizane is also celebrated in festivals throughout Japan. The most famous of these is the Tenjin Festival held in Kyoto in July. The festival features a procession of people dressed in traditional clothing, carrying lanterns and floats. The festival is a celebration of Michizane’s life and his contributions to Japanese culture.


Sugawara no Michizane has been depicted in various forms of art, including paintings and sculptures. One of the most famous depictions is the painting “Tenjin Crossing to China” by Sesshin, which shows Michizane crossing a river on his way to China. Michizane is also the subject of many ukiyo-e prints, which were popular in Japan during the Edo period. These prints often depict Michizane as a wise and revered figure.

Overall, Sugawara no Michizane’s legacy has had a profound impact on Japanese culture. His literary works, tragic fate, and contributions to scholarship and literature continue to be celebrated and admired to this day.

Modern Depictions

In Pop Culture

Sugawara no Michizane has been depicted in various forms of modern pop culture. In the popular video game “Final Fantasy XIV,” he is a boss in the Palace of the Dead. In the anime “Kamisama Kiss,” he appears as a deity who grants wishes to those who visit his shrine. He is also a character in the manga series “Tenjin” by Ryo Ikuemi.

Educational Materials

Sugawara no Michizane’s life and contributions to Japanese literature and culture are often studied in educational materials. In Japan, he is often featured in history textbooks and is a popular subject in literature classes. His poetry is also studied in Japanese language classes. In addition, his story has been adapted into children’s books, providing a fun and engaging way for young readers to learn about his life and legacy.

Overall, Sugawara no Michizane’s influence on Japanese culture and literature continues to be felt today, both in popular culture and in educational materials.