As soon as I heard that Hiraizumi was known as an ancient city I was keen to visit it. If you’d mentioned that name to me a few days before I would have not been any wiser! Once I was done at the awesome Genbikei Gorge I took the bus five minutes up the road see this interesting shrine which is more commonly known as Takkoku no Iwaya.
In a country where there are thousands and thousands of shrines they need to really have some kind of uniqueness for them to appeal to me in some way. This one was a no-brainer though as a shrine built below an overhanging cliff isn’t something you see too often.
Takkoku no Iwaya lies six kilometres south-west of Hiraizumi Station and there is one bus every hour which goes in that direction.
Entrance was 300 yen and after walking through three big torii gates, the cliff face appears to the right and you can see the Bishamon-do (Bishamon Hall). It stands on tall wooden supports across the opening of the cave which is 150 metres wide and 35 metres high. It is a natural cave of course but it should be noted that it has been enlarged further back into the cliff though god knows how that was done exactly!
Gamaga-ike (toad pond) sits right in front of the cave and there is a small central island with a pavilion on it that is connected by a small red bridge. The pond has been around since the 12th century according to research and excavation.
There are a couple of other halls in the shrine grounds which do stretch further than you initially think on arrival at the shrine. In fact, having looked at the pamphlet for this place long after my visit, it seems I missed a couple of notable things at this historic site such as a Fudō-myōō statue and a buddhist statue carved in the rock face. Oh well! I think I’ve seen more than enough of those recently!
Chuson-ji is the biggest and most famous temple in Hiraizumi but I decided to give it a miss once I saw that it would cost 800 yen to enter it. As someone who has visited a countless number of temples and shrines, I fail to believe that this particular one can be any different or greater to justify paying such a price.
Instead, I took the bus to Motsu-ji Temple which was a further 11 minutes up the road in the direction of Hiraizumi Station. It’s supposedly very well known in Japan as a representative of a Heian period land garden and has thus been designated a Special Place of Scenic Beauty. Motsu-ji may be a temple but it’s the garden (below) which is of interest to most people. A huge pond known as Oizumiga-ike is very much at the centre of the garden and provides a pleasant and quiet place to wander round. It is a World Heritage Site and a spectacle of beauty that has not changed in over 800 years.
Click here to read ‘Dining Out: A Truly Novel Way Of Buying Food At Genbikei Gorge’
Bonus: Before even arriving in Hiraizumi en-route from Sendai, I had actually stopped briefly in Furukawa early morning just to see the interesting looking architectural design (below) of the Osaki Civic Hall (5-5-1 Furukawakitamachi, Osaki, Miyagi) which is about 15 minutes north of the station on foot.
Click here to read ‘Only In Japan: A Huge Gas Tank Decorated To Look Like A Fruit!’