Renowned Japanese children's author Kenji Miyazawa referred to Iwate as "Ihatov," an ideal village. Iwate Prefecture can be divided into four areas, each brimming with attractions. The Southern Iwate area has Hiraizumi, the first Japanese site registered as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the Central Iwate area is home to Morioka, with its majestic views in which Mount Iwate serves as a centerpiece. The Coastal Iwate area, nicknamed Iwate Sanriku, is known throughout Japan as a treasure trove for seafood. The Northern Iwate area is known for its varied and unique climate. Hiraizumi is a particularly beautiful city, a World Heritage Site painted in gold colors. Even today, the splendor of Hiraizumi in its heyday can be felt in the many events held there, making visitors feel that they have gone back in time.
Morioka serves as a base for sightseeing in Iwate. The trip from Tokyo is approximately 145 minutes on the Tohoku Shinkansen.
When you use your JR EAST PASS SPECIAL or JR EAST PASS to travel to Iwate between April 1 and June 30, 2013, you can receive a free gift!
Chusonji is the head Tohoku region temple of the Tendai sect of Buddhism. The temple was founded by Kiyohira, first of the powerful Oshu Fujiwara clan lords, as a memorial to soldiers fallen in battle and to usher in a peaceful future. Although many of the buildings constructed in 850 were sadly lost to fire, five important cultural properties such as the Konjikido Hall escaped destruction and were preserved as national treasures. Everything from the walls to ceilings to eaves of this elaborately decorated building are covered in gold leaf and just a glimpse of it and the Buddhist altars within is sure to steal your breath away. The altars serve as the final resting place for the mummified remains of the first three Fujiwara lords and the preserved head of the fourth.
(25 minutes on foot from Hiraizumi Station.)
Motsuji was constructed by the second lord of the Fujiwara clan, Motohira. Though the temple was unfortunately lost to fire, the garden at the center of the grounds has been carefully restored and preserved. This Jodo garden was built as a representation of the Buddhist Pure Land, namely Jodo, brought to reality on Earth. This park was designed in accordance to “Sakuteiki, EJapan’s oldest garden manual, and incorporates many of its characteristics such as the Oizumi Pond and the Suhama beach shore. As such the park holds significant historical and academic value. The gorgeous irises blooming from mid-June to mid-July is truly a sight to see.
(10 minutes on foot from Hiraizumi Station.)
Many events recalling the past glory of the Fujiwara clan are still held today at the Chusonji and Motsuji temples. Several of these festivals have been designated Important Intangible Folk Cultural Assets so they make an ideal time to visit. The Spring Fujiwara Festival is held every May 1st-5th at the Chusonji and Motsuji temples and recreates the warm reception of Yoshitsune Minamoto as he narrowly escaped death at the hands of his older brother, shogun and bitter rival. Held at Motsuji, the Ennen no Mai Longevity Rites are also an Important Intangible Folk Cultural Asset. At the Gokusui no En, held at Motsuji on the fourth Sunday of May, participants garbed in period costume compete at composing on the spot poetry.
(Chusonji and Motsuji temples, near Hiraizumi Station.)
The Geibikei Gorge is counted among Japan's 100 most famous views. Sheer rock cliffs extending 2 kilometers tower 100 meters above the river on both sides. These magnificent stony cliffs excite the senses and provide a sublime contrast to the delicate trees and shrubbery in the area. Spectacular views await year round from the wisteria of spring to the deep greens of summer, vibrantly colored leaves of autumn, and snow-covered serenity of winter. A ride on a gondola (1 hour 30 minute round trip) lets you experience the beauty of Geibikei Gorge up close, the way it was meant to be seen.
(5 minutes on foot from Geibikei Station.)