As one of the most significant temples in Iwate Prefecture, Chusonji Temple is listed as a national treasure, and also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It’s located in the small rural town of Hiraizumi, so you’ll get a very different feeling here than at the big city temples; here you’ll walk through a forested mountainside approach to reach the main halls.
This is a significant temple of the Tendai sect of Buddhism, and has stood in one form or another since 850 AD, making it one of the oldest in the country. Throughout its history, it’s gone through periods of development and decline. In its glory days, when the northern division of the powerful Fujiwara Clan based themselves in the town, the temple was a thriving religious hub for the region.
Unfortunately, the Fujiwara didn’t quite make it through the 12th century, so the temple lost its wealthy patrons, and struggled to make it through the subsequent centuries itself. Nowadays, only two of its original buildings remain: Konjikido (a covered pavilion decorated purely in gold and mother of pearl) and the less ornate Kyozo Hall.
The temple also boasts its very own variety of lotus flower, which took its name. Visit in August and you’ll be able to see it in full bloom, displayed in a pool at the bottom of the approach.