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Hiraizumi

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Hiraizumi (平泉町) is a small town in Iwate, in the northeastern Tohoku region of Japan. As of April 2021, Hiraizumi had a population of approximately 7,100 people.

Understand[edit]

夏草や 兵どもが 夢の跡
natsugusa ya tsuwamono-domo ga yume no ato
Summer grass — all that remains of warrior dreams
-- Matsuo Bashō

During the reign of the Fujiwaras (866-1184), Hiraizumi was said to rival Kyoto in grandeur and sophistication, but now all that remains are the temples of Chusonji and Motsuji, both of which are mostly in ruins at that. Famed haiku poet Matsuo Basho penned the famous haiku quoted above, with the end result that now Basho is quite possibly more idolized in Hiraizumi than anywhere else, and you can't throw a rock in Hiraizumi without hitting a Basho statue, a Basho monument, an inscribed copy of a Basho haiku or at the very least a coffee shop waving its "As mentioned in Narrow Road to the Deep North" banners.

Get in[edit]

By train[edit]

Hiraizumi is on the JR Tohoku Main Line, connecting to Morioka in the north and Sendai to the south.

The nearest Shinkansen stop, Ichinoseki, is only 7 minutes away (¥200). Trains from Tokyo reach Ichinoseki in about 2½ hours (¥12,530 on the Yamabiko shinkansen for the one-way trip to Hiraizumi; adult, unreserved seat). No charge with the Japan Rail Pass, JR East Tohoku Area Pass or South Hokkaido Rail Pass.

Get around[edit]

Local buses connect JR Hiraizumi Station to points of interest, although you can also reach them on foot. Bicycle rentals are available just to the right of the station, it is ¥1000 for the whole day (¥500 for 3 hours) and it allows you to get around quickly and enjoyably.

See[edit][add listing]

Statue of Basho, Chusonji
Takkoku no Iwaya, Bishamondo

In 2011, six of the city's attractions were made World Heritage Sites under the name "Hiraizumi - Temples, Gardens, and Archaeological Sites Representing Pure Land Buddhism". Those sites are: Chusonji, Motsuji, Kanjizaioin Ato, Muryokoin Ato, Yanaginogosho Iseki, and Mount Kinkeisan.

  • Chūsonji Temple (中尊寺), (5 min by bus or 20 on foot from the stn), 019-146-2211, [1]. 8:30AM–5PM, ~4:30PM Nov-Feb. Hiraizumi's largest and most famous temple, renowned particularly for its Golden Hall (金色堂 Konjikidō) — which, unlike Kyoto's Golden Pavilion, is smaller and housed inside a large glass case (no photos allowed). True to the name, the shrine inside is elaborately decorated with golden lacquer and mother-of-pearl, with three Buddha images. ¥800.  edit
  • Mōtsuji Temple (毛越寺), 58 Osawa, Hiraizumi (10 min on foot from the station.), 019-146-2331, [2]. 8:30AM–5PM, Nov 5-Mar 4 ~4:30PM. The second of Hiraizumi's two large temples, known for its rare surviving Heian Era Pure Land Garden (浄土園 Jōdoen) dating to 800 AD. The garden seems downright un-Japanese in its liberal use of wide, grassy spaces — but most of the open spaces have scattered rocks and are marked with small posts in the middle, indicating the locations of destroyed temple buildings. ¥700.  edit
  • Takkoku no Iwaya Bishamondo (達谷窟毘沙門堂), 16 Kitazawa, Hiraizumi (About 30 min bike ride out of town), 019-146-4931 (fax: 019-134-9911), [3]. 8AM–5PM, Nov 4-Mar 18 ~4:30PM. A nice cave temple. It is the 5th incarnation of the temple since it was established in 801. It is dedicated to Bishamon the god of war, but was called Iwaya Bishamondo -- a place to pray for peace. Also at this site is the Ganmen Daibutsu a giant stone carving of Buddha, but only the head remains after an earthquake destroyed the body. The ride to the temple is enjoyable in itself with nice Japanese countryside all the way. Ironically, although it is often considered to be the most interesting site for tourists, it is one of the only local attractions that is not a World Heritage Site. ¥400.  edit
  • Kanjizaioin Ato (観自在王院跡), Shirayama, Hiraizumi, [4]. Built by Fujiwara Motohira's wife, it was originally a large garden. A fire destroyed it in the 16th century but many of the structures were rebuilt. Today, it's more of a park, although there are still some preserved elements that remind you it was once a garden. Free.  edit
  • Muryōkōin Ato (無量光院跡), Hanadate, Hiraizumi, [5]. This was formerly a temple, but all that remains today is the temple's pond.  edit
  • Yanagi no Gosho Iseki (柳之御所遺跡), Yanaginogosho, Hiraizumi, [6]. This is the site of the former palace. Although no structures remain, the pond and foundations still give visitors an idea of how grand the palace once was. Excavations are still being done.  edit
  • Yanaginogosho Museum. Yanaginogosho Iseki is often closed to the public, so the museum provides a way for visitors to learn about Hiraizumi's history and the former palace.  edit
  • Kinkeisan. Buddhist sutras were once buried on this mountain.  edit

Do[edit][add listing]

  • Yukyu no Yu Hiraizumi Hot Spring (悠久の湯 平泉温泉), 1-1 Osawa, Hiraizumi, 019-134-1300 (fax: 019-146-3080), [7]. 10AM–9PM. While it does not have a history going back severfal centuries like the rest of Hiraizumi, for those who'd like a hot experience can find this place among all the old sights. ¥500, towel ¥100.  edit

Eat[edit][add listing]

There are a number of small teahouses and souvenir stands in the grounds of Chūsonji.

  • Bashokan (芭蕉館), 3-1 Suzusawa, Hiraizumi (3 min walk from Hiraizumi Stn), 019-146-5155 (fax: 019-146-5176), [8]. 10AM–3PM. Specializes in the regionally famous Hiraizumi Wanko soba noodles, as well as deep fried foods like tempura, donburi, and more. ¥580~.  edit

Drink[edit][add listing]

There are a few izakaya near the western exit of Hiraizumi Station.

  • The Brewers Hiraizumi, 34-13 Koromonoseki-34-13 Hiraizumi, 019-134-4044, [9]. 9AM-6PM. A small craft brewery and restaurant, as well as making their own special coffee.  edit

Sleep[edit][add listing]

There are a few places to stay overnight in Hiraizumi, but for a better and more economical selection, go to near Ichinoseki Station, less than 10 minutes away by train.

  • Hiraizumi Hotel Musashibo (平泉ホテル武蔵坊), 15 Osawa, 019-146-2241, [10]. A 3-star hot spring hotel with both Japanese traditional and western style rooms. ¥15000~.  edit

Contact[edit]

For the latest info on events, happenings, and things to see and do, see the page of the Hiraizumi Tourism Association (能代観光協会, Hiraizumi Kankō Kyōkai) Tel. 019-146-2110, or see the tourist info office (9AM–5PM) next to Hiraizumi Station.

Get out[edit]

  • Ichinoseki — Famous for its magnificent Geibikei and Genbikei gorges, hydrangea garden, and numerous museums.
  • Morioka — Major transportation hub and popular for its many noodle dishes.
  • Sendai — Biggest city in the Tohoku Region with many nice temples, festivals, shopping, and sightseeing.
  • Kesennuma — Coastal city famous for its fish market and getting decimated in the 2011 tsunami.


Routes through Hiraizumi
MoriokaHanamaki
Kitakami ←
Mizusawa ←
 N noframe S  IchinosekiSendai
MoriokaHanamaki
Kitakami ←
Mizusawa ←
 N noframe S  IchinosekiSendai


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