Tohoku Photo Gallery - Hiraizumi

Hiraizumi prospered between the 11th and 12th centuries and its historic relics have survived the test of time. This place was the political and administrative centre of northern Japan that rivalled Kyoto. As our train arrived, these performers made a noisy welcome dance. The town is quite quiet despite its temples and gardens having made it to the UNESCO World Heritage list.

To save some money and get some good exercise in this cool spring weather, I walked for about 20 minutes to Chuson-ji, passing through some houses and parks along the way.

Chuson-ji reflected Hiraizumi's status as a major capital under the Fujiwara clan's rule. The temple complex sprawls along the hillsides, making it quite a good workout to go from one end to the other. The temple was founded in 850 while the complex was started in the 12th century.

Chuson-ji is on top of Kanzan hill. After a long climb uphill under dense vegetation, a spot opened up over the countryside below.

The temple was originally intended to commemorate those who have died in Tohoku's conflicts during the 11th century based on the principles of Buddhism.

Although a fire destroyed most of the complex in the 14th century, many of its treasures survived.

Sakura season seems to have ended for the most part, although I found a few trees that lagged behind a bit.

At the far end of the complex, Kanzantei offers a lovely view of the mountains further away. Although the weather forecast called for a cloudy day, it would be much more pleasant further north. Blue skies were within reach in the distance.

Unfortunately, the most beautiful part of the temple, Konjikido (Golden Hall), is under a protective building cover with no photography allowed, so the exquisite golden work could only live in my memory. I proceeded back to town to the next stop, the cherry blossoms at Maizurugaike Pond.

Motsu-ji's history parallels Chuson-ji. At its peak, it was home to more than 40 halls and pagodas with a huge pond and garden on site. But first, there was a beautiful tree at full bloom.

The garden was designed in an aristocratic residential style but the buildings are long gone so you need some imagination. The Yarimizu Stream slowly flowed into the pond, completely clueless the world has changed around it.

Takkoku no Iwaya was believed to have been founded in the 9th century to thank the buddhas in helping the army quell local resistance. The location is quite unique, being carved into the cliff. Today's structure is a reconstruction as fires have ravaged many times over time.

To get here, ask for a bus schedule at the tourist information centre next to the train station. Board at the parking lot next to Motsu-ji.

After a quick visit to the site, watch the time and wave the bus down to head back to town.

From Motsu-ji, it is about a 1km walk back to the train station along a sleepy main road bounded by lowrises.

Hiraizumi is easily accessible by train from Sendai (less than 1 hour on the Shinkansen, transferring to the JR local line at Ichinoseki) or Morioka (50 minutes, also transferring at Ichinoseki).

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