Hiraizumi, Iwate


Hiraizumi, Iwate

nihongo|Hiraizumi|平泉町|Hiraizumi-chō is a town located in Nishiiwai District, Iwate, Japan. It was the home of the Hiraizumi Fujiwaras for about 100 years in the late Heian era and most of the following Kamakura period. At the same time it served as the "de facto" capital of Oshu, an area containing nearly a third of the Japanese land area. At its height the population of Hiraizumi reached nearly a million people, rivaling Kyoto in size and splendor.Fact|date=June 2008 A million people in those days would put it among the largest cities on earth.

History

The first structure built in Hiraizumi may have been Hakusan Shrine on top of Mount Kanzan (Barrier Mountain). A writer in 1334 recorded that the shrine was already 700 years old. Although rebuilt many times, the same shrine is still standing in the same location.

In about 1100 Fujiwara no Kiyohira (藤原清衡) moved his home from Fort Toyoda in present day Esashi Ward, Oshu City to Mount Kanzan in Hiraizumi. This location was significant for several reasons. Kanzan is situated at the junction of two rivers, the Kitakami and the Koromo. Traditionally the Koromo River served as the boundary between Japan to the south and the Emishi peoples to the north. By building his home south of the Koromo Kiyohira (half Emishi himself) demonstrated his intention to rule Oshu without official sanction from the court in Kyoto. Kanzan was also directly on the Frontier Way, the main road leading from Kyoto to the northern lands as they opened up. Kanzan was also seen as the exact center of Oshu which stretched from the Shirakawa Barrier in the south to Sotogahama in present day Aomori Prefecture.

Kiyohira built the large temple complex on Kanzan known as Chūson-ji. The first structure was a large pagoda at the very top of the mountain. In conjunction with this he placed small umbrella reliquaries (kasa sotoba) every hundred meters along the Frontier Way decorated with placards depicting Amida Buddha painted in gold. Other pagodas, temples and gardens followed including the Konjikido, a jewel box of a building intended to represent the Buddhist Pure Land and the final resting place of the Fujiwara lords.

Hiraizumi's golden age lasted for nearly 100 years, but after the fall of the Fujiwaras the town sank back into relative obscurity, and most of the buildings that gave the town its cultural prominence were destroyed. When the poet Matsuo Bashō saw the state of the town in 1689 he penned a famous haiku about the impermanence of human glory:

:"Natsu kusa ya! / Tsuwamono-domo ga / yume no ato"::Ah, summer grasses! / All that remains / Of the warriors dreams. [1689] [http://www.haikupoetshut.com/basho1.html]

However, the town's historical monuments and sites are currently on the tentative list of UNESCO World Heritage Site status [http://whc.unesco.org/en/tentativelists/1528/] , and archeological work is being carried out to support this claim.

Demographics

As of 2003, the town has an estimated population of 8,811 and a density of 139.00 persons per km². The total area is 63.39 km².

The town lost some land to the city of Ichinoseki (2nd generation, now part of the 3rd generation city) from September 1, 1956 to May 1, 1964.

Famous places

Hiraizumi has a number of officially listed National Treasures and other culturally or historically notable sites, including:
* Buddhist temples
** Chūson-ji (中尊寺), including the Konjikidō (金色堂, Golden Hall)
** Mōtsū-ji (毛越寺) with its 'Pure Land' style Jōdo Garden (浄土庭園)
** The remains of Kanjizaiō-in (観自在王院) with its 'Pure Land' style Jōdo Garden (浄土庭園)
** The remains of Muryokō-in (無量光陰)
** Takkoku no Iwaya Bishamon Hall (達谷窟毘沙門堂)
* Other
** Takadachi Gikeidō (高館義経堂)
** The Yanagi no Gosho Site (柳之御所)

Transportation

*Hiraizumi Station on the Tōhoku Main Line has hourly connections to Ichinoseki and Morioka.
*A bus connects the temple Chūson-ji (中尊寺) with the train station, running on to Ichinoseki.
*Bikes can be hired next to the JR station for ¥1000 per day or ¥500 for 2 hours.

External links

*Ja iconEn iconCn iconKo icon [http://www.town.hiraizumi.iwate.jp/ Official website]
*Ja iconEn iconZh-cn icon [http://cat-vnet.tv/category150/151/index.html The Golden Land of Hiraizumi] (movie)
* [http://wikitravel.org/en/article/Hiraizumi Wikitravel: Hiraizumi]


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