Hiraizumi: Chusonji temple and Motsuji Temple

Hiraizumi is a small town in Iwate prefecture, that prospered for almost 100 years from the 11th to 12th centuries as the center of the Tohoku region (the northeastern region). Since Fujiwara family moved their headquarters and residence, Hiraizumi served as an important political, military, commercial, and cultural centre of the region. Several major temples associated with Pure Land Buddhism were founded and endowed, but the demise of their benefactors and a series of fires contributed to their subsequent decline. Over 3,000 national treasures and historical sites still remain, telling of the Fujiwara Clan that reigned over the area in the zenith of its prosperity. Hiraizumi is listed as UNESCO World Heritage site in 2011. The main attractions are two temples: Chusonji and Motsuji.

From Tokyo station, Hiraizumi station can be reached by Tohoku Shinkansen and JR Tohoku Main Line.

– Chusonji Temple

Hiraizumi’s most famous attraction, Chusonji (中尊寺, Chūsonji) was established in 850 as a temple of the Tendai sect of Buddhism. The temple came to prominence when the northern branch of the Fujiwara clan moved their base to Hiraizumi. The Konjiki-do of Chuson-ji Temple, built by the Fujiwaras, is decorated inside and out with lacquer containing gold foil and studded with gold and silver, a symbol of the gold culture of Hiraizumi. The historical artifacts and Buddhist statues found in the Konjiki-do are stored in the Sanko-zo storehouse and displayed to the public, reminding all who see them of the very high level of artistic achievement in these earlier times.


Basho Matsuo, the most famous poet of the Edo period in Japan, visited Chusonji temple and wrote a poem.

– Access: From Hiraizumi Station, Chusonji can be reached in a five minute ride by regular bus, in a ten minute ride by the Hiraizumi Loop Bus or in a 20-30 minute walk.

– Motsuji temple

The Motsu-ji Temple adjacent to the Chuson-ji Temple was built in the 9th century, but destroyed repeatedly by fire. The restored temple and garden around the Oizumi-ga-ike Pond are reminiscent of what the temple and its environs would have looked like in those days. Motsuji is well known for its garden, one of the few remaining pure land gardens in Japan. Pure land gardens were a popular garden style during the Heian Period, attempting to recreate the Buddhist concept of the pure land or “Buddhist paradise”.

Main hall.



– Access: From Hiraizumi Station, Motsuji can be reached in a three minute ride by the Hiraizumi Loop Bus or in a ten minute walk.

Address: Koromonoseki-202 Hiraizumi, Hiraizumi-chō, Nishiiwai-gun, Iwate-ken 029-4102, Japan

Address: Ōsawa-58 Hiraizumi, Hiraizumi-chō, Nishiiwai-gun, Iwate-ken 029-4102, Japan

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