Hiraizumi town (平泉町), once Kyoto‘s rival for its refined culture and elegant surroundings in the 12th century, still retains its charm and traces of former greatness. If you are after a cultural and scenery feast, it is the destination that you don’t want to miss!
Apart from the famous Chūsonji Temple (中尊寺) and the Motsuji Temple (毛越寺), also discover the Takkoku Saikoji Temple – Bishamondō (達谷窟毘沙門堂) that has a huge Buddha image carved on the cliff wall in its grounds.
Back in the 12th century (the Heian Period), with the reign of the Fujiwara clan, Hiraizumi, the capital of northern Japan, was a wealthy town with rich cultural sophistication. The town’s wealth isn’t just the accessories of the political power but largely from the local gold mines. With the influence of Buddhism, the Fujiwara clan attempted to reproduce the paradise in the Buddhism sutra in Hiraizumi. This is why the palaces, temples, and monasteries built at the time were so elegant and magnificent.
With the decline of the Fujiwara clan, Hiraizumi never recovered to its formal glory. But, as the locals rebuilt the temples in the town, visitors from around the world are still able to admire the precious historic and cultural properties.
With one day of your time, you can explore all the three most well-known monasteries in Hiraizumi. To travel in the most efficient way, we recommend visiting the three based on their distance from JR Hiraizumi Station (平泉駅). That is, with the following sequence:
Also, if you prefer to travel between each destination with a bike, click HERE for more information.
And if you are looking for a restaurant that caters to a vegetarian diet, please click HERE for a few options (=ﾟωﾟ)ﾉ.
Motsuji Temple (毛越寺)
Just a 7-minute walk from JR Hiraizumi Station, you will find the front gate of Motsuji (毛越寺), a temple with the most picturesque Buddhist Pure Land Garden in the country.
In addition, you can enjoy some delicious traditional desserts in the tea house in the precinct!
For more information, please refer to our article on Motsuji Temple!
The Walking Trail to Chūsonji Temple
If you enjoy trekking in the mountain, we recommend following the orange walking trail in the official pamphlet HERE to get to Chusoji Temple, which takes around an hour! It is relatively less known, and the whole trail is extra scenic in autumn. You even get to knock on the wooden plate along the trail to alert the bears in the mountain to stay away from you (this part might sound scary to some people, but as big animal lovers, we found it really fascinating) (=ﾟωﾟ)ﾉ
Chūsonji Temple (中尊寺)
The same as Motsuji Temple not too far away, it was also founded by Jikaku Daishi (慈覚大師) in 850 based on Pure Land Buddhism.
With numerous cultural heritages at Chūsonji Temple (such as the building, painting, calligraphy… etc), the temple is known as the treasure trove of Heian Buddhism and is registered as a World Heritage.
For more information, please refer to our article on Chūsonji Temple!
Takkoku Saikoji Temple – Bishamondō (達谷窟毘沙門堂)
In the 8th century, the Takkoku Saikoji Temple was built by the Shogun at the time as an appreciation gesture to the Bishamonten God’s (毘沙門天) blessing for winning a war.
Do the pillars underneath the temple reminds you of the Kiyomizu-Dera Temple (清水寺) in Kyoto? Because that is the temple that Takkoku Saikoji Temple imitates!
The Takkoku Saikoji Temple we see today was the second rebuilt in 1961. Fingers crossed for no further fire disaster to the temple…
Gamaga Pond (蝦蟆ヶ池)
In the front yard of the temple, is the Gamaga Pond.
Whilst it seems like any other ponds you will find in other Japanese gardens, it is also of great heretical value, with a lot of plates from the Heian era discovered from the pond in 1985!
Big Buddha On Cliff Surface (岩面大佛)
On the west side of the temple, you will find this big Buddha face!
Before its collapse in1896, it was a 16.5 meters tall Buddha statue. But at least we still got his face to enjoy (≧▽≦).
This Buddha was carved for those who passed away during the war in the area that the Shogun wan.
For more information about the temple, refer to the official website HERE.
How to Get to Takkoku Saikoji Temple – Bishamondō
Whether it is from JR Hiraizumi Station or from Chūsonji Temple, it is a 10-minute drive.
So if you don’t plan to get a rental bike during your visit to Hiraizumi, probably get ready to pay for the expensive Japanese taxi (´▽｀*).
It takes around 30 minutes to explore the temple.
Takkoku Saikoji Temple – Bishamondō’s Opening Hours and Admission Fee
- 8 am ~ 5 pm between the 19th of March to the 3rd of November
- 8 am ~ 4:30 pm between the 4th of November to the 18th of March
- Adults: 500 yen
- High school students: 100 yen
Exploring Hiraizumi with Rental Bicycle
There are a few shops where you can rent a bicycle to shorten the time spent traveling between attractions. The two that are just next to JR Hiraizumi Station are Suwaro Tsua Hiraizumi Rentaru Saikuru (スワローツアー平泉レンタサイクル) and Goruden Renta Hiraizumi (ゴールドた平泉).
Suwaro Tsua Hiraizumi Rentaru Saikuru (スワローツアー平泉レンタサイクル)
Normal bicycle rental:
- 500 yen for 4 hours
- 1,000 yen for 1 day
Electric bicycle rental:
- 600 yen for 4 hours
- 1,300 yen for 1 day
200 yen is payable for each additional hour for both normal and electric bicycle rental.
Gold Renta Hiraizumi (ゴールドた平泉)
Normal bicycle rental:
- 500 yen for 3 hours
- 1,000 yen for 1 day
Tip: if you want to temporarily store your bags at JR Hiraizumi Station, Gold Renta Hiraizumi provides free luggage storage service for its customers (=ﾟωﾟ)ﾉ
Vegetarian-Friendly Restaurants at Hiraizumi
Whilst we currently aren’t aware of any restaurants that have a vegetarian menu, the below 2 restaurants can cater to vegetarian dietary if you book in advance (=ﾟωﾟ)ﾉ.
Note that both of the restaurants aren’t opened for dinner!
Hiraizumi Rest House (平泉レストハウス)
Genbikei Gorge and the Fascinating Flying Dango Rice Cake
Are you interested in trekking through beautiful nature and traditional Dango rice cakes? Head to Genbikei, a gorge that isn’t too far away from Hiraizumi, for some breathtaking scenery and to see some Dango rice cakes “flying” in between the gorge’s steep cliffs!
For more information, please refer to our article on Genbikei Gorge!
Extend Your Visit to the Geibikei Gorge which Has the Most Scenic Traditional Boat Ride
Click on the photo to find out more about this stunning spot!
Want to appreciate the picturesque 2km gorge with cliff walls of more than 100 meters high on both riverbanks, and all you need to do is relax on a boat?
Geibikei Gorge (猊鼻渓) in Iwate prefecture is the perfect place for you! Adding to this unforgettable experience is the traditional Japanese ballad that your boatman will be singing during the 90 minutes boat ride (≧▽≦).
Find out more about this awesome place with our Geibikei Gorge Article!