Dazaifu was the local seat of power of imperial rule covering Kyushu after it was moved from present-day Fukuoka City in 663 until it was moved back there during the Muromachi period. It played a significant role during that time since there were close ties and trade between Korea and China, and visiting dignitaries arriving in Japan would stay in the area. It also served as an outpost of exile from the Heian capital, and its most famous resident was Sugawara no Michizane (菅原道真, August 1, 845 – March 26, 903), a politician, poet, and scholar who was demoted and sent there due to rival slander and political trickery. Today he is deified as the god of learning, literature and calligraphy, and the 3,000 acre (12 km2) Dazaifu Tenmangu Shrine established two years after his death serves as the head Tenmangu shrine in Japan, receiving thousands of visitors every year (especially students taking school entrance exams).
Dazaifu is accessible via Futsukaichi (二日市) station on the Nishitetsu Tenjin-Omuta Line, about 30 minutes in total, by limited express from Tenjin Station in Fukuoka City, and then 2 stops by local train from Futsukaichi Station.
From Tenjin station in Fukuoka there are at least a dozen trains per hour operating to Futsukaichi. The journey is 14 minutes by Limited Express or 18 minutes by Local train, and currently costs ¥400.
If you want to head from JR Hakata Station to Dazaifu, the best option is to take a local bus to Nishitetsu Yakuin Station (¥100) and there take Nishitetsu train to Dazaifu (transfer at Nishitetsu Futsukaichi). Some local buses are available from JR Futsukaichi station to Dazaifu too, but they are rather expensive and infrequent.
Those seeing both Fukuoka City and Dazaifu can take advantage of the extended version of the Fukuoka Tourist City Pass which covers Nishitetsu trains and buses, Showa buses, the Fukuoka City subway, and JR Kyushu trains within the area, and costs ¥1340 for adults and ¥670 for children.
Take the main road number 3 south out of Fukuoka, which passes through Dazaifu. This can be crushingly slow for such a short distance. A better option is to take the toll road south out of Fukuoka (you can access from various points around the city) and get off at the Dazaifu interchange, which will cost ¥600 as of May 2007.
Dazaifu has little of interest to the average tourist beyond Dazaifu Tenmangu Shrine and the adjacent Kyushu National Museum, however, if you should want to explore the remaining ruins, you are advised to walk or bicycle.
There are a variety of festivals held at various shrines across the town throughout the year. If it is possible, try to attend the monthly flea market in the grounds of Tenmangu Shrine, where kimonos can be had for ¥1000 or less.
Simply put, travel to Fukuoka city for shopping. Dazaifu houses merely the usual Japanese stores: Nitori, Uniqlo, GooDay, and so on.
There are a huge number of restaurants serving typical Japanese fare in the immediate proximity of the Tenmangu Shrine.
Again, travel to Fukuoka city for evening entertainment.
Travel to Hakata via Futsukaichi, and from there to anywhere.