Hiraizumi is a town of around 7,300 people located in southern Iwate. In the 12th century, the Tohoku northern region of Japan prospered with the lead of the Oshu-Fujiwara clan, a feudal clan based in Hiraizumi. Around 800 years later, the cultural heritage Hiraizumi was inscripted in UNESCO’s World Heritage List on June 29, 2011. In commemoration of the tenth anniversary of its inscription this year, allow us to share Hiraizumi’s World Heritage with you.

The various temples and gardens of Hiraizumi were created in the image of the Buddhist Pure Land, and remain in good condition. These temples and gardens were built to create the Pure Land on this earth, and while they were influenced by abroad forces, they were developed singularly in Japan. There are no other examples of expression of the Pure Land of the type found in Hiraizumi.

The Cultural Heritage of Hiraizumi comprises of 5 different properties: Chuson-ji Temple, Motsu-ji Temple, Kanjizaioin-ato, Muryokoin-ato, and Mount Kinkei.

Chuson-ji Temple is a temple in the north of central Hiraizumi Town. The first lord of the Oshu-Fujiwara clan, Kiyohira, built Hiraizumi as the political center and seat of government for the northern regions of Japan, and he first created Chuson-ji as the “heart” of the area in order to construct the Buddhist Pure Land on this earth. Within Chuson-ji, the Kawanishi Nenbutsu Kenbai dance is performed even now as a type of cultural folk performance with direct ties to the Buddhist Pure Land form of thought.

Motsu-ji Temple is a temple in the southern end of the town’s center, built during the rule of the second and third lords of the Oshu-Fujiwara clan, Motohira and Hidehira respectively. At the time, there were over 40 temple buildings, and 500 residential quarters for temple monks. It’s said that the Enryu-ji Temple within was praised as having “beauty that no other structure in the land could compare to.”

The large pond within the temple is called Oizumigaike, and is kept in its form as a beautiful Heian period Buddhist garden, healing the hearts of those who view it.

Kanjizaioin-ato is the former site of a temple that was built by the wife of Motohira.

In front of two halls containing images of the Amidabha Buddha, there is a large Pure Land Garden outstretched with the Maizurugaike pond at the center.

All of the structures from the time it was built have since burned down, but work is being conducted in reconstructing those buildings. It is now a park that is used as a place of rest.

Muryokoin-ato is the former site of a temple that was built by the third lord Motohira on the east side of central Hiraizumi. It was built in the image of the Phoenix Hall of Byodoin Temple, located in the Uji area of Kyoto.

The site has almost completely been converted into water paddies, and only the land remains.

In the middle of all of these structures stretching north to south is a direct line that connects to the top of Mount Kinkei. Twice a year in April and August, you can see the sun set right behind the summit of Mount Kinkei.

Mount Kinkei is a mountain in between Chuson-ji and Motsu-ji. The legend says that a pair of golden cockerels, male and female, are buried at the top in order to protect Hiraizumi.

The mountain was also said to be home to sutras (Buddhist texts) buried underground that were created by the Oshu-Fujiwara clan. The mountain became key to the development of the region of Hiraizumi. When the famous poet Matsuo Basho visited Hiraizumi, he wrote a poem about his impression of the mountain.

Kinkeizan no mi  katachi wo nokosu”

“Only Mount Kinkei retains its form.”

For more information on the World Heritage Site Hiraizumi, please check out this website:


There are many events held per year at Hiraizumi,.

※Some of these events may be cancelled or postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

○ Gokusui no En “Winding Stream Festival”

A recreation of an event held during the Heian period. Participants place small bowls into a manmade stream within the gardens at Motsu-ji. As the bowls float down the river, they think up Japanese classical poems. It is an elegant banquet that recalls the Heian period.

When held: The fourth Sunday in May

Place: Motsu-ji Temple

Ennen no Mai “Longevity Dances”

Performed during on January 20th during the Hatsukayasai Festival (which celebrates the Buddhist deity Matara-jin) as a ritual of respect to the gods. A Shinto prayer is conducted that wishes for peace and a long life free of disaster, and then dances like the Dengenyaku and Kyodonomai are performed.

Where the dance is typically performed: Motsuji Hatsukayasai Festival (January), Fujiwara Spring Festival (June), Bush Clover Festival (September) etc

Hiraizumi usually greets around 2 million visitors a year, but those numbers have sharply dropped because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

However, the value of the World Heritage Site of Hiraizumi remains unchanged, still shining its golden light.

We hope that you one day get to visit Hiraizumi and learn about its history as well as the wishes the Oshu-Fujiwara clan had for peace and serenity.




今回は「世界遺産 平泉」を紹介します。