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A Trip to Hiraizumi: Heaven in Northern Japan

Hiraizumi is a small rural town which got registered as a World Heritage Site in 2011.

It holds Buddhist temples and gardens which are not seen anywhere in the world but there.

Chusonji Temple in Hiraizumi, Japan
Pure Land Garden in Motsuji Temple, Hiraizumi, Japan

The temples and gardens are based on the Pure Land, a heaven, of Buddhism.
They are built to realize the ideal world in this world. There are some influence from foreign countries, but the thoughts are unique in Japan.

If you saw Hiraizumi in a guidebook or something like that and wondering if you visit there, there is no reason to hesitate. My trip was so impressive that I am writing this. I confidently recommend a trip to Hiraizumi.
If you haven’t heard of Hiraizumi yet, explore the culture and many photos here, and you will know what a beautiful place it is.

Chuson-ji Temple

Chuson-ji Temple is originated from the 9th century, when Ennin, a honorable priest, established the temple in the hill in Northern Japan.

A path in the old trees leads to the Main Hall and Konjiki-Do (= Golden Hall) of the temple.

The path in Chusonji Temple, Hiraizumi, Japan

In the early 12th century, Kiyohira Fujiwara, the first Fujiwara lord in Oshu (Northern Japan. Called Tohoku today.) and the father of the one who established Motsu-ji Temple below on this post, started to construct a lot of temple halls and pagodas for more than 300 monks.

His desire was to let people rest in peace who died in dreadful battles in Oshu in the 11th century.


The entire of the hill is Chusonji Temple; It was a place for monks’ training and life. There are many temple halls along the path.
Fall Foliage and the main building in Chusonji Temple

Konjiki-do (Golden Hall) of Chuson-ji Temple

Chusonji Temple Golden Hall, Hiraizumi, Japan

The Golden Hall is the only one remaining as the original built in Heian era, the epoch when Japanese culture bloomed 1,000 years ago.
The all-golden hall is inside the house in the photo. All of the essences of the arts, beauties in Heian era and thoughts of Buddhism are concentrated there.
Want to see them? The golden hall is kept silent with no photo policy. Please go to Chuson-ji Temple website from the link at the bottom of this post if you hope to learn more.

The beauty of Golden Hall is praised in a famous poem. He is Basho Matsuo, a traveling haiku poet in the 17th century.

Basho Matsuo, a haiku poet

Golden Hall was so breathtaking that he made a haiku here on his way. Today it is on Japanese textbooks for junior high school students.

A pagoda with flowers near Golden Hall
As you have seen, Hiraizumi is a great spot to view autumn colors.
Red and yellow leaves surround us in the calm district. The peak comes in early November, earlier than Tokyo because Hiraizumi is located in the north.
I must say… it was breathtaking. 
Look up and there is a bell among the yellow leaves.
One more photo there. The rural scenery of Hiraizumi with Kitakami River, which crosses this Oshu district.
Kitakami River from Chusonji Temple

Motsu-ji Temple

Chuson-ji Temple comes first in guidebooks, but Motsu-ji Temple is a must-see in Hiraizumi.
It is said that Motsu-ji Temple was established by Ennin in 850.
Motohira and Hidehira Fujiwara developed Motsu-ji Temple by constructing temple halls and the Pure Land Garden (Jodo Teien) to realize the ideal world.

Motsuji Temple in Hiraizumi, Japan


Pure Land Garden
It is a Japanese garden which realizes Buddha’s land on the earth. The large pond with pure water holds some stones for decorations based on beauties for gardens in Heian era. So it is an interesting and important garden for history researches, too.

When I visited there, I lost my words because of the beauty of large and calm garden.

Pure Land Garden in Motsuji Temple, Hiraizumi, Japan
Pure Land Garden and a cleaner
Stones in the pond

Pure Land Garden is very famous among people who visited there themselves. I am one of them.
My best shot.

The pond of Pure Land Garden, Motsuji Temple, Hiraizumi

The garden is designed to let the Fujiwara lords hold seasonal parties in Heian era.

A stream to the pond of Pure Land Garden

The stream was for parties for poems. They used to flow small cups with some sake and write poems on a paper beside the stream. It was a place for beautiful arts.
Today it became a festival of Motsu-ji Temple on the 4th Sunday of May. People in Heian costumes do exactly the same thing around the stream.

The stream from the tiny bridge
A bell by the pond


I uploaded as many photos as possible so that you will see how beautiful Hiraizumi is and feel the calm times in a heaven in Northern Japan.
Pleased if you share my beautiful, precious trip in Hiraizumi!

Hiraizumi Travel Guide

How to Get To Hiraizumi from Tokyo
The simplest way is to get JR Tohoku Shinkansen to Ichinoseki Station and change trains to JR Tohoku Honsen Line, a local train, to Hiraizumi.
Around 2 hours 10 – 30 minutes from Tokyo to Ichinoseki and 7 minutes from Ichinoseki to Hiraizumi. 12,300 yen – for the Shinkansen ticket.
There are discount tickets on sale by JR Railway, travel agencies and tours.


Hiraizumi is a small rural town, so just a few hotels are found.

If you want to stay near Hiraizumi, it is the best idea to stay in Ichinoseki. There are some business hotels, which are comfortable enough. Just 7 minutes ride by train to Hiraizumi.

There are 2 campgrounds in Hiraizumi if you like.
From Tokyo, a day trip is possible, too.

2 thoughts on “A Trip to Hiraizumi: Heaven in Northern Japan

  • I SO love your photo of the reflections … but of course I love the RED trees best!

    • Hi, Red!
      November is autumn in the Northern Hemisphere. And it's definitely the season of RED! Enjoy maple leaves turned red. 🙂


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