Dazaifu Day Trip: A Hidden Gem from Fukuoka, Japan

by Jackie
Kanzeonji Temple in Dazaifu, Japan

If you have 2+ days in Fukuoka, Japan and want an idea for a day trip, consider visiting Dazaifu. We wanted to explore an off-the-beaten path place during our Kyushu itinerary and Dazaifu fit the criteria. It’s known as the “City of Ancient Culture” and is a hidden gem with gorgeous temples, shrines, and ancient ruins. 

This Dazaifu day trip post highlights how to get to Dazaifu from Fukuoka, what to do in Dazaifu, and other insider tips. We didn’t see much information available about Dazaifu and wanted to share with you our findings on how to spend one day here.

Why is Dazaifu a special place to visit? This city was an important government city which oversaw Kyushu island for 500 years. It was also one of the military and administrative centers during the Nara and Heian period. Considering its previous historical importance, it was established as a city on April 1, 1982. Now, visitors come here to experience the small city vibe as a day trip from Fukuoka. 

Now, let’s spend the day in Dazaifu!

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How to Get to Dazaifu from Fukuoka

We’re taking the train to visit Dazaifu from Fukuoka’s Hakata Station (博多駅) as it’s the easiest way to get there by public transportation. There are two ways to get there.

Tip: Use Google Maps to determine the schedule of the trains.

Easy route via Nishitetsu Railway

Take the Nishitetsu Tenjin-Omuta Line from Nishitetsu Fukuoka Tenjin Station (西鉄福岡(天神)駅) to Nishitetsu Futsukaichi Station (西鉄二日市駅). Transfer from the Nishitetsu Futsukaichi Station to go to Dazaifu Station (太宰府駅). The route will take between 13- 30 minutes depending on which train line you’re taking – express, limited express, or local train. The cost is 410 yen ($3.80) per person. 

Long route via Japan Rail

If you have the Japan Rail (JR) pass and want to utilize it, traveling to Dazaifu will take a little longer. However, you do save some money if you’re on a budget.

Click here to buy your JR pass for a discounted price.

From Hakata Station, go to Futsukaichi Station (二日市駅) via Kagoshima Main Line. You’ll arrive in 7 stops. Afterward, walk about 15 minutes to go to the Nishitetsu Futsukaichi Station (西鉄二日市駅). Follow the green path to get between the station. 

From the Nishitetsu-Futsukaichi Station, take the train to go to Dazaifu Station (太宰府駅) in 2 stops. The train doesn’t run often so you may need to wait. Cost for the one-way ticket is 160 yen ($1.50). Expect to spend about 45 minutes of travel time. 

Tip: When you arrive at the Dazaifu Station (太宰府駅), head to the Tourist Information Center to get a complimentary copy of the city map. 

To Return to Fukuoka

Depending on your ending location for your Dazaifu itinerary, you can also head back to Fukuoka with any of these stations instead of heading back to Dazaifu Station. 

Via Nishitetsu Railway: Murasaki Station (紫駅), Futsukaichi Station (西鉄二日市駅), Tofuro-mae Station (都府楼前駅), Shimo-Ori Station (下大利駅)

Via Japan Rail: Futsukaichi Station (二日市駅), Tofuro-Minami Station (都府楼南駅), or Mizuki Station (水城駅)


How to Get Around Dazaifu

Walking 

Dazaifu isn’t large so it can be done by walking. If you hang out in the Dazaifu Tenmangu Shrine area, then many of the sites are close together. If you decide to go farther to see the ruins in the National Historical site area, we recommend that you wear comfortable walking shoes or use any of the transportation options below.

Riding the Dazaifu City Bus

There is also a Dazaifu City Bus Mahoroba Go that will conveniently stop by the main Dazaifu attractions and landmarks. 

Cost: The ride is 100 yen ($.90) per ride or 300 yen ($2.80) for a day pass for elementary school students and higher.

Renting bicycles

It’ll be easier if you rent bicycles to go around the area. The roads are easy to follow and wide enough for cyclists. To rent the bicycles, stop by the bicycle rental shop next to the Dazaifu Station or Futsukaichi Station. 

Cost: 500 yen ($4.60) per day or 800 yen ($7.40) for an electric bicycle. 

Opening Hours: 9:00am-6:00pm, 9:00am-5:00pm for Futsukaichi Station


Top Things to Do in Dazaifu on Your Day Trip

Depending on how much time you have to spend in Dazaifu, you can spend a few hours up to a full day here. We’re splitting this Dazaifu one day itinerary with first spending time in Tenmangu Shrine area and then seeing the ancient ruins. 

Tenmangu Shrine Area

1. Shop along Tenjinsama Street.

Once you depart from Dazaifu Station, you’ll along the main Tenjinsama shopping street. The street has torii gates which leads you to the main Dazaifu Tenmangu shrine area. We love walking through these traditional shops to browse souvenirs and see what yummy food items we can try.

Address: 2-Chōme-7-12 Saifu, Dazaifu, Fukuoka 818-0117, Japan

On your Dazaifu day trip, you'll enter the torii gates which starts the Tenjinsama Shopping Street.

Once you see the torii gates, you’ve entered Dazaifu’s Tenjinsama Shopping Street.

2. Visit Starbucks.

One of the highlights of the Tenjinsama shopping street is seeing a unique Starbucks Store among the row of traditional shops. The architecture is a bit funky as there are over 2,000 wooden batons interwoven in the front of the store and inside the store on the ceiling and walls. While we didn’t buy any coffee, it’s fun to see the architecture. 

Address: 3 Chome-2-43 Saifu, Dazaifu, Fukuoka 818-0117, Japan (〒818-0117 福岡県太宰府市宰府3丁目2−43)

Opening Hours: 8:00am-8:00pm

Read more: See the Starbucks at Kawagoe, Japan

Dazaifu Starbucks Store is a unique attraction in Dazaifu, Japan with its wooden batons in the architecture.

Dazaifu’s Starbucks is fascinating to look at for its architecture.

3. Eat the fresh Umegae mochi. 

Umegae mochi (plum rice cakes) is a must-try snack on your Dazaifu day trip. It’s a glutinous rice cake that has sweet red bean filling and is grilled with a plum mark on the outside. This snack is a Dazaifu specialty. 

When walking along Tenjinsama Street, you’ll see many shops rolling mochi dough and pressing them into the grills. These are best when eaten fresh and hot off the grill. Depending on the shop, you may have to wait in a long line. Otherwise, you can visit any of the shops as they should taste similar. You may want to get more than one since they are so delicious!

These mochis are also affordable at 130 yen ($1.20) per piece. Or, you can get a box to bring home as souvenirs. 

Jackie Szeto, from Life Of Doing, holds an umegae mochi, a circular rice cake filled with red beans and stamped with a plum blossom. It's a top item to try in Dazaifu, Japan.

Umegae mochi is a must-try snack during your Dazaifu day trip.

4. Visit Dazaifu Tenmangu Shrine.

If you’re a fan of visiting shrines, then you need to add Dazaifu Tenmangu Shrine (太宰府天満宮) to the list. From the shopping street, you’ll cross over a bridge and a pond so it’s a nice area to get some nature. This place would be gorgeous to visit in all the seasons from the cherry blossoms in spring to the maple leaves in the fall. During our visit in January, we saw plenty of pink plum trees blossom. 

Tenmangu Shrine is a Shinto shrine dedicated to Sugawara Michizane, the god of learning. Many people come here to pray for good luck in the academic school year and tests. While you’re here, you can pray or receive a blessing. Many people buy good luck charms and get their fortune. 

Since the shrine is a picturesque area, we saw a couple of people wear kimonos for photos. 

Address: 4 Chome-7-1 Saifu, Dazaifu, Fukuoka 818-0117, Japan (〒818-0117 福岡県太宰府市宰府4丁目7−1)

Opening Hours: 6:30am-6:30pm (December-March), 6:30am-7:30am (June-August), 6:30am-7:00pm (April-May and September-November)

Dazaifu Tenmangu Shrine is one of the top things to do on your Dazaifu itinerary. It's a gorgeous temple with lots of people visiting.

Tenmangu Shrine is one of the best attractions to visit in Dazaifu.

5. Explore the other attractions in the Shrine area.

We didn’t have a chance to visit these places but here are optional places to visit if you want to hang out in the shrine area. 

Komyozenji Temple

Komyozenji Temple (光明禅寺) is a lovely spot to visit after the Tenmangu Shrine. It’s known for its beautiful landscapes and zen stone garden. This place was closed on our day of visit so we couldn’t see the stone garden. 

Address: 2 Chome-16-1 Saifu, Dazaifu, Fukuoka 818-0117, Japan (〒818-0117 福岡県太宰府市宰府2丁目16−1)

Opening Hours: 8:00am-5:00pm

Admission Cost: 200 yen ($1.80)

Kyushu National Museum

Kyushu National Museum opened in 2005 and is the newest national museum in Japan (the others in Tokyo, Kyoto, and Nara). The museum showcases Kyushu’s history and includes artifacts and national treasures. There are permanent and special exhibits all year round.

The architecture of the Kyushu National Museum is unique with the glass windows so you see the reflections of the neighboring mountainside. Plus, the building is in the shape of a mountain. 

Although we didn’t go into the museum, we walked through the back entrance. It was a unique way to enter the museum as you take the escalator and ride along a tunnel with flashing neon lights. It’s probably the longest escalator ride that we’ve been on – over five minutes!

Address: 4 Chome-7-2 Ishizaka, Dazaifu, Fukuoka 818-0118, Japan

Opening Hours: 9:30am-5:00pm (Sunday, Tuesday-Thursday), 9:30am-8:00pm (Friday & Saturday), Closed Monday

Admission Cost: 700 yen ($6.40) adults, 350 yen ($3.20) university students, free seniors 70+ and students under 18 years

Kamado Shrine

Kamado Shrine (宝満宮 竈門神社) is a Shinto shrine at the top of Mount Homan so there will be fewer tourists visiting. The shrine is dedicated to Tamayorihime no Mikoto who is the god of love and matchmaking. Therefore, many visitors come here to pray for a lover and significant other. The area is also known to be pretty during the cherry blossom season. 

Address: 883 Uchiyama, Dazaifu, Fukuoka 818-0115, Japan (〒818-0115 福岡県太宰府市大字内山883)

Opening Hours: 8:00am-7:00pm

Amusement Park

Dazaifu Yuenchi Amusement Park (だざいふ遊園地) is a good spot if you have children. Although it’s a small-scale amusement park, there are children-friendly rides such as a train roller coaster ride, water ride, merry-go-round, go-karting and more.

Opening Hours: 10:30am-4:30pm (Monday-Friday), 10:00am-5:00pm (Saturday-Sunday)

Admission Cost: 600 yen ($5.50) adults, 500 yen ($4.60) seniors 65+, 400 yen ($3.70) children 3 years to elementary school 

 

Ancient Ruins Area

Now we’re headed to see the ancient ruins. This area isn’t nearby the Dazaifu Tenmangu Shrine area, so you’ll either need to walk (about a 30-minute walk), ride your bicycle, or take the city bus. These sites are off the beaten path since they aren’t as crowded. 

6. Visit Kanzeonji Temple and Kaidanin Hall.

Kanzeonji Temple (観世音寺) is a 1,300-year-old temple tucked off the main street. The temple was built in 746 AD and in memory of the Empress Saimei by her son, Emperor Tenji. It was an important Buddhist temple in the Kyushu area. The temple is mentioned in Man’yoshu poetry and in the “Tale of Genji” novel (which is also set in Uji of the Kyoto area). 

A few steps away from Kanzeonji Temple is Kaidanin Hall. It’s one of the three ordination halls to do Buddhist rituals. The others are in Todaijin in Nara and Yakushiji in Tochigi. There is also a bronze Bonsho Bell, a large bell. 

What we love about the Kanzeonji Temple area is how quiet and peaceful it is. When you walk towards the temples, you’ll see moss growing on the tree trunks so there is this magical feel when approaching the temple. During our visit, we saw one other person visiting the temple so you won’t deal with the crowds here.

If you want to explore further, there are also some smaller shrines behind the temple area which are not listed on the map. You can browse around to see what you can find. 

Jackie Szeto from Life Of Doing climbs up a set of stairs to a smaller shrine in Dazaifu, Japan

One of the best things to do in Dazaifu is to wander around to the smaller shrines.

Tip: There are a lot of mosquitoes in the area so you may want to wear insect spray or limit your time here.

Address: 5 Chome-6-6-1 Kanzeonji, Dazaifu, Fukuoka 818-0101, Japan (〒818-0101 福岡県太宰府市観世音寺5丁目6−6-1)

Opening Hours: 9:00am-5:00pm

View of Kanzeonji Temple with the moss on the tree trunks in Dazaifu, Japan.

A quieter temple to visit is Kanzeonji Temple which is a good place to add to your Dazaifu one day itinerary.

7. Walk to the ancient Dazaifu Government Office area. 

After exploring the back roads of the Kanzeonji Temple, we passed by Gakkoin (Gakkoin School). It was a former school area but now it’s a farm.

Now we’re on the way to the Dazaifu Government Office (大宰府政庁跡), formally called Tofuro. The government building oversaw the administration of the island during the late 7th century to Nara and Heian periods. 

Unfortunately, the buildings are no longer up. The only thing left is the foundation of the former building pillars. Hopefully, the city adds signage to these ancient ruins and provides more history of the area in the future.

Currently, the ancient office area is a park with an open grass area where people walk around and go running. We saw a group of women doing running drills here. Otherwise, there isn’t much to see in the park so we don’t necessarily recommend that you make a trip just to see this place. However, it’s beautiful to see the mountainside landscapes and surrounding trees.

Address: 4 Chome-6-1 Kanzeonji, Dazaifu, Fukuoka 818-0101, Japan (〒818-0101 福岡県太宰府市観世音寺4丁目6−1)

The former Dazaifu Government Office has the foundation of the building pillars.

Here is what to expect when visiting the ruins of Dazaifu Government Office.

8. Visit Dazaifu Site Exhibition Hall.

Next to the former Government Office building is the Dazaifu Site Exhibition Hall (大宰府展示館). It’s a building that has an ancient drainage system on display. It also has artifacts and information on the history of Dazaifu. 

Address: 4 Chome-6-1 Kanzeonji, Dazaifu, Fukuoka 818-0101, Japan (〒818-0101 福岡県太宰府市観世音寺4丁目6−1) 

Opening Hours: 9:00am-4:30pm

Admission Cost: 200 yen ($1.80) adults, 100 yen ($.90) high school and university students, free children to junior high students

9. Other Sites to See in the Area

If you have extra time or are interested in seeing more ancient ruins, continue reading more below. We skipped out on these as we didn’t want to see more rock foundations. 

Remains of Chikuzen Kokubunji Temple

Located at the base of Mount Shioji (originally called Mout Ono), Chikuzen Kokubunji Temple (筑前国分寺) was a former temple constructed by Emperor Shomu in 741 AD. Currently, there are stones in place for the building foundation.  

Address: 4-chōme-3 Kokubu, Dazaifu, Fukuoka 818-0132, Japan (〒818-0132 福岡県太宰府市国分4丁目3)

Remains of Onojo Fortress

On Mount Shioji, Onjo Fortress (大野城跡) was a fortress/castle area used to protect the government from invasion. Currently, there are stone ruins such as walls, buildings, and temples. To get here, you’ll need to walk along the Kyushu nature trail between Chikuzen Kokubunji Temple to Mount Shioji.

Address: North of Dazaifu City in the mountains 


Final Thoughts about One Day in Dazaifu

If you have extra time in your Kyushu itinerary, consider spending up to half a day to a full day in Dazaifu. It’s a fabulous day trip from Fukuoka and you get to experience a hidden gem. If you’re more into the shrines and temples, hanging out in the Dazaifu shrine area would be a good way to spend the day. Seeing the ancient ruins isn’t required so you may skip focusing on other attractions. Hope you can visit Dazaifu in the future!

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