First walking around this temple, the grounds inspired me to want to do my homework in a place like this- little did I know that the temple enshrines Sugawara Michizane, the patron deity of learning.
Kitano-Tenman-Gu is a temple with an interesting history. It enshrines Sugawara Michizane, who was favored in the late 800s by Emperor Uda for his great knowledge and learning. However, Sugawara was exiled from court due to slander, and in 903, he died in exile. Following his death, severe earthquakes and thunderstorms hit Japan, and seemed never to cease, culminating in 923 with the death of the Crown Prince Yasuakira at 21 years old. Rumors started that it was the wrath of Sugawara, who had been wrongly forced into exile when he had been loyal to the crown, as the slanderers and their families as well met with disaster. In 930, a bolt of lightning struck the Imperial Palace (which was still in Kyoto at the time), which deeply effected Emperor Daigo’s health and well-being.
Because of prophecies spoken in 942 by Tajihi-no-Ayako, who claimed to have received an oracle from Sugawara in her own home, and of the priest Miwa no Yoshitane, who had also received an oracle, in 947, the Kitano shrine was built. Sugawara was deified under the name Tenjin as the God of Thunder and Fire. Many oxen were sacrificed in offering to Tenjin, which is why the temple has an abundant number of oxen statues leading up to the main shrine. In the Kamakura period, however, Tenjin’s court rank was posthumously elevated once again and he ceased to be a vengeful spirit, instead becoming a state-protector deity. By the time of the Middle Ages, Tenjin had certain functional anecdotes attributed to him due to his life as described in the text Kitano Tenman Engi, such as sincerity, filial piety, clearing the falsely accused and being the guardian relating to calligraphy and poetry. He is also important to Japan’s poetic forms, such as waka and renga, and is considered one of the three waka deities. Presently, he is worshipped as the God of Learning and Examinations.  
The temple itself is absolutely gorgeous. Entry into the main shrine is free, and on the 25th of every month, the treasure house is opened for a small fee. Much of the artwork and paintings have been left to the open air, so the temple still feels much like a temple, instead of a museum. Some of the paintings are so worn by the weather that all remains are the reliefs of where the paint once was. Knowing how many oxen were probably sacrificed to this shrine is a little sad for me, but the stone and brass statues that remain are quite beautiful. Entering the shrine grounds, you pass a covered well, which is allegedly the same well used to draw the water for the Kitano Ocha-no-Yu (tea ceremony), a famous tea ceremony that commemorated Toyotomi Hideyoshi’s attack on Kyushu October 1, 1587. Sen no Rikyu (the father of the Japanese Tea Ceremony) was in attendance.
After the well and the oxen, all visitors must pass under the Romon Gate, a two storied gate protected by two wooden Zuishin statues. Zuishin statues are kami warrior-guardians and are often sculpted to be holding bows and arrows. They are Kadomori-no-Kami, gods who guard over shrine gates. After the gate, you have free access to the whole of the shrine. Right now, there are many ceremonial items on display, as on October 1-5, there will be a large festival- the Zuiki-Matsuri, an important festival of Kyoto. I’m looking forward to going. Please check out my gallery for pictures of the shrine!