Before the start of the 12th century, Hiraizumi was just another small town in Iwate. Everything changed when the Fujiwara — the dominant clan in Japan at the time — based their northern branch here. With their patronage, the town quickly became a beacon of culture and power to rival the national capital Kyoto.
All good things come to an end though, especially in the tumultuous feudal era of medieval Japan, so towards the end of the century Hiraizumi found itself reduced to ashes by the soon-to-be first shogun of Japan. Though its heyday was short-lived, the city still benefits from some fantastically preserved architectural relics from the era.
Here you can visit Chuson-ji Temple’s gilded pavilion, see the cliffside temple Takkoku no Iwaya, or make your way into the surrounding countryside to enjoy the dramatic gorges and mountains of the region. If you visit during fall, you’ll also be treated to some fantastic festivals, including one dedicated to Japan’s national flower: the chrysanthemum.
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