Sugawara no Michizane (Japanese, 845-903)

Scholar, poet, politician and, finally, Shinto god. Sugawara no Michizane was born into an early Heian family of court scholars and used his knowledge of Classical Chinese language and poetry to become an ambassador to the mainland. He spent four years as a provincial governor away from the court in Kyoto, a post often assigned to bureaucrats without clout. More than a quarter of his poetry can be attributed to this period of relative isolation. He wrote both Japanese waka poems and Chinese kanshi poetry. 

Michizane ran afoul of one of the most powerful families of Heian Japan, the Fujiwara clan, which, after years of political intrigue, was able to secure the banishment of not only Michizane, but his whole family. After he passed away in exile in 903, the court experienced natural disasters in rapid succession, from plagues to floods, and repeated lightning strikes on palace buildings. Believing that it was Sugawara’s avenging spirit wreaking havoc, the court built a shrine in his honor and later enshrined him in the Shinto pantheon as Tenjin-sama, a god of sky and storms.