in 2011, Hiraizumi became a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Many felt this was long overdue. The site is brimming with history. Hiraizumi was built for the Hiraizumi-Fujiwaras in the Heian period, an era known for its rich depictions of royal court life. Chusonji is one of the buildings open to the public year round. It houses many national Buddhist treasures, painstakingly crafted with precious materials such as mother of pearl and gold leaf. Chusonji was founded in the late Heian period with the hopes that the souls of those who perished during battle would find peace. Motsuji is an area of Hiraizumi which includes a beautiful garden and park with a sizeable pond and stream in the Pure Land Buddhist tradition. A large vermilion structure hosts an impressive golden Buddha. The special stream in this area is where they hold a reenactment of a Heian tradition. Actors dress in Heian court costume and compose poems as sake cups are set upon feathers or leaves floating on the stream. This is called a “meandering stream party”, but it’s more of a contest to see who can write the best poem. This is a free event which anyone can observe and is held on the fourth Sunday of May. There are other events which happen throughout the year, including free outdoor performances of Noh plays and cherry blossom viewing in the spring (usually late April/early May). There are also many opportunities to partake in unique experiences such as seated meditation or learning how to make local crafts or food. Some of these are seasonal and can be a little expensive, so be sure to check the English website to see what will be offered during your visit. Hiraizumi is rather large, but it is possible to get around on foot or by bike (you can rent one for a small fee). There are other great places to visit which are free, such as the Yanagi Imperial Palace Museum and even natural wonders such as Mt. Kinkei. Hiraizumi is sure to leave a deep impact on your heart, mind, and soul.

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