Hiraizumi is an ancient city located in Nishiiwai District, Iwate Prefecture. Once rivalled Kyoto for its beauty and elegant surroundings, Hiraizumi was the capital of the Northern Fujiwara in 1105. In 1189, however, Hiraizumi was razed by Minamoto Yoritomo, the man who would soon after become Japan’s first shogun. he city never recovered its former prominence, but it still features some of the Tohoku Region’s most precious historic and cultural properties which achieved UNESCO World Heritage Site status in 2011.
Chusonji Temple, a UNESCO World Heritage site, was established in 850 as a temple of the Tendai sect of Buddhism. At its peak, the temple consisted of a large network of dozens of buildings. Much of the temple has been rebuilt after its decline. However, two of the original buildings remain Konjikido and Kyozo hall. Konjikido, or the Golden Pavilion, is completely covered in gold and mother-of-pearl inlays, providing a breathtaking example of the craftsmanship of its time. (Image via Official Website)
Activities: Temple visit Fee: JPY 800 (Konjikido & Treasure Hall) Time required: 45 minutes
Motsuji was once a large and important temple of the Tendai sect, consisting of numerous buildings. As with Chusonji, Motsuji's fortune rose and fell with the fortune of the Fujiwara family. Today, Motsuji is best known for its garden, one of the few remaining pure land gardens in Japan. Like all pure land gardens, Motsuji's garden is centred around a large pond. The garden is best enjoyed by walking along the path that leads about 500 meters around the pond's circumference. (Image via Official Website)
Activities: Temple visit Fee: JPY 500 Time required: 45 minutes
Muryokoin, a Pure Land Buddhist temple and garden created in the 1100s, was meant to create a heavenly paradise on earth. The original temple was constructed to allow visitors to meditate on the Buddhist ideal of the Pure Land. The temple area is about 240 meters east-west by 270 meters north-south. Although part of the site was destroyed by railway construction, the foundation stones and garden remained. Today, you can walk through the temple ruins, surrounded by rice paddies and the remnants of the once-beautiful garden. (Image via Official Website)
Activities: Strolling, Photo stop Fee: None Time required: 45 minutes-1 hour
Mount Kinkei (Kinkeizan)
Mount Kinkei is a sacred mountain that has influenced the spatial layout of the temple complex at Hiraizumi. It lies approximately halfway between the temples of Chusonji and Motsuji. According to the legend, the hill was built in a single night by Fujiwara no Hidehira to be a copy of the Byodoin temple in Uji (near Kyoto). The name of the hill is said to be derived from a golden cockerel that was buried on the top. On 22 February 2005, Mount Kinkei was declared a national historic site. In recognition of its cultural value, Hiraizumi was designated as a World Heritage Site in 2011.
Activities: Strolling, Photo stop Fee: None Time required: Minimum 1 hour
Kanjizaioin was a Buddhist temple that fell into ruins during the Kamakura period; however, the pond from its gardens has been restored to its original dimensions and has been designated a nationally designated Place of Scenic Beauty in 2005. The ruins are also covered as part of the Special National Historic Site designation for neighbouring Motsu-ji. Together with other important sites in Hiraizumi, the ruins form part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site Historic Monuments and Sites of Hiraizumi. (Image via Official Website)
Activities: Strolling, Photo stop Fee: None Time required: 1 hour
The Geibikei is a spectacular gorge outside Hiraizumi. It is enjoyed by taking a calm, 90-minute ride on a flat-bottomed boat navigated by a boatman with a pole. Pleasant natural scenery with impressive, tall cliffs and rock formations can be viewed along the way. The scenery along the gorge is attractive at any time of the year, but particularly so during the fall colour season.