Five Must-Visit Shrines and Temples in Iwate Steeped in History
There are many historic shrines and temples in Iwate, particularly around the World Heritage Site of Hiraizumi. Here are five famous shrines and temples that you will want to visit at least once.
1. Chuson-ji Temple
This is a famous temple that is a component part of Hiraizumi – Temples, Gardens and Archaeological Sites Representing the Buddhist Pure Land World Heritage Site. It was originally built in 850, and was restored at the beginning of the 12th century to memorialize those who died in war and to pray for peace. It has many important cultural properties including buildings and paintings, such as the Konjikido (Golden Hall), a national treasure that retains the form from the time the temple was established. The temple is also famous as a site to see beautiful fall foliage that reaches its peak between late October and early November every year.
2. Hoon-ji Temple
This is an ancient temple of the Soto school of Zen Buddhism famous for the Gohyaku Rakan (500 statues of the Buddha’s disciples) in a building called Rakando. The Gohyaku Rakan are wooden statues representing disciples of Buddha to be honored and respected that were sculpted by nine Buddhist artists from Kyoto over a period of four years starting from 1731. All but one of the 499 statues still remain today, and they are rare examples of Gohyaku Rakan statues whose sculptors and time of creation are known. It is said that the statues, each of which has its own unique countenance, includes ones of Marco Polo and Kublai Khan, so you may enjoy trying to find them.
Entrance fee: 300 JPY
3. Morioka Hachimangu
This is a shrine that was established in 1680 and is dedicated to deities related to the fundamentals of human life, such as agriculture, industry, commerce, academics, and daily necessities (food, clothing & shelter). The bright vermilion shrine with colorful statues has been rebuilt many times after being damaged in disasters and by wind and snow. It is a majestic shrine considered to be the prefecture's foremost shrine. When visiting, it is recommended to try the cleansing ritual set with a gourd motif (1,500 JPY). It is said that you can seal in evil and misfortune by breathing on the gourd three times, closing the lid and leaving it hanging in the designated area of the shrine. The amulet that is included in the set should be taken home.
4. Takkoku no Iwaya Bishamondo / Bettotakkoku Seikou-ji
This is a place where the famous warrior lord, Sakanoue no Tamuramaro (758 - 811) enshrined 108 statues of the Buddhist deity, Bishamonten. The entire temple grounds is designated as a historic landmark. Takkoku no Iwaya Bishamondo, a 1200-year-old cave temple built into a wall of rock, is particularly famous. The current temple is the fifth incarnation that was built in 1961. None of the original Bishamonten statues remain to this day due to numerous fires, but there are still many things to see such as the Jyoroku Fudomyoo statue of Acala that was made during the Heian Period (794 - 1185) and the Ganmen Daibutsu Buddha carved into the rock wall.
Entrance fee: 300 JPY
This is an ancient temple in Hanamaki. It is one of the three Kiyomizu of Japan together with Kiyomizudera in Kyoto and Kiyomizudera in Hyogo. It was founded when the warrior lord previously introduced, Sakanoue no Tamuramaro, enshrined a Kannon (Bodhisattva) statue around 807. There is much to see, including the hall with the Kannon statue and a tower gate with open access to the second floor. It's a surprisingly little known place, so you may be able to enjoy a quiet, leisurely stroll.
Historic shrines and temples are also places you may feel empowered at when you pay your respects. Please stop by when you are traveling through the Tohoku region.
*Please note that the information in this article is from the time of writing or publication and may differ from the latest information.
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