About Chūson-ji Temple
Chūson-ji is situated on the top of a hill named Kanzan, and often called Kanzan Chūson-ji. According to temple records, it was founded in 850 by Ennin (Jikaku Daishi), a monk associated with the great monastery Enryakuji and third head abbot of the Tendai sect. Ennin is also known for the autobiographical record of his travels and study of Buddhism on the continent, regarded by some as one of the world's greatest travelogues.
It was in the early twelfth century that the first Ōshū Fujiwara lord, Kiyohira, began the construction of a massive temple complex of halls and pagodas here. According to the Azuma kagami (the official history of the Kamakura shogunate) there were more than 40 halls and pagodas, and over 300 monks' residences.
Kiyohira intended that Chūson-ji would placate the spirits of those who had died, either friend or foe, in the bitter conflicts that had dominated Tohoku in the latter half of the late eleventh century. He further wished to create a peaceful state based on the principles of Buddhism.
In the dedication pledge for Chūson-ji, known as the Ganmon, Kiyohira writes that all travelers, regardless of status, would be greeted affectionately by the Buddhas and without fail receive their blessings. Chūson-ji's merits were to be distributed evenly and universally to all who desired them.
Kiyohira's son Motohira inherited this great vision and commissioned his own great temple, Mōtsū-ji, which was completed by his son, Hidehira. In turn, Hidehira commissioned Muryōkōin Temple. This was close to Yanagi no Gosho, which appears to have been a government complex of diverse departments from which the Ōshū Fujiwara administrated their Tohoku domain.
Hiraizumi flourished for nearly one hundred years, a time of peace and prosperity. However, hostility from the Kyoto court and the emergence of Minamoto no Yoritomo's regime in Kamakura eventually dragged Hiraizumi into the violent political upheavals of the late twelfth century.
When Minamoto no Yoshitsune, younger brother and former general of Yoritomo, fell out with his elder sibling, he fled to north to Hiraizumi, but soon after he arrived, his protector Hidehira fell ill and died. Hidehira's heir, Yasuhira, was unable or unwilling to handle Yoritomo's pressure to hand over Yoshitsune, and in early 1189 attacked the fugitive general, forcing him into suicide. Yet this was not enough to appease Yoritomo, who attacked Yasuhira and brought the curtain down on the century-long Ōshū Fujiwara dynasty.
Chūson-ji's fortunes changed drastically in the succeeding Kamakura period. In 1337 fire consumed many of the temple's halls, pagodas, and treasures. Nevertheless, more than 3,000 National Treasures and Important Cultural Properties survived, principal among them the Konjikidō, the small, golden Amida hall which was the first structure designated a Japanese National Treasure. The significance of Chūson-ji's treasures is that they form an integrated collection of many different crafts, including lacquer work, woodwork, metalwork, dyeing and calligraphy all of which represent the pinnacle of Heian period Buddhist art in eastern Japan.
It is our sincerest hope that this booklet is of value to all who visit Chūson-ji, and that it helps you to personally experience both the dreams of Hiraizumi's Ōshū Fujiwara and the blessings of the Buddha.
Points of precincts
The main approach to Chūson-ji is called Tsukimizaka (Moon Viewing Slope). On either side of the path are cryptomeria trees planted three to four centuries ago by the Date clan of Sendai, whose domain this was in the Tokugawa period (1603-1868).
Hondō Main Hall
Chūson-ji is the name of both the complex and this principal temple hall where many services and rituals are conducted. 20 to 23 monks work here at any given time. Supported by seventeen subsidiary halls, the Main Hall was most recently rebuilt in 1909. The principal image is Shaka Nyorai (Historical Buddha) and on either side stand Chūson-ji's eternal lights, lit with flame from the Tendai sect's main temple, Enryaku-ji, where the flame is reputed to have burned since the time of Tendai's founder Saichō.
Konjikidō Golden Hall
The Konjikidō, completed in 1124, is the only 12th century structure to survive in its original form at Chūson-ji. This small hall is dedicated to Amida Nyorai (the Buddha of Infinite Light) and apart from the roof, is covered with gold leaf both inside and out.
The Sankōzō was opened in 2000 to preserve Chūson-ji's various treasures and cultural assets for future generations. Most of Chūson-ji's more than 3,000 National Treasures and Important Cultural Properties are now housed here. Among these are Buddhist statues, sutras, and the burial accoutrements of the Ōshū Fujiwara lords.
202 Koromonoseki, Hiraizumi, Iwate 029-4102
TEL.0191-46-2211 / FAX.0191-46-2216
【Admission fees】Konjikidō・Sankōzō Museum・Sutra Repository・Former Konjikidō ShelterHall
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Frequently Asked Questions
How long does a typical visit take?
Usually around 1 – 2 hours.
What if I'd like to request a guide?
The following guide services are available. Please inquire directly for further details.
Hiraizumi Tourist Guide (Chūson-ji Temple)
Hiraizumi Tourist Guide Office (9 Hiraizumi Sakashita, Hiraizumi, Nishiiwai District, Iwate 029-4102)
TEL: 0191-46-4203 FAX: 0191-46-4203
Open: 9:00am – 5:00pm
Hiraizumi Guide Association
36-1 Hiraizumi Suzusawa, Hiraizumi, Nishiiwai District, Iwate 029-4102
Tourist Information Center, Hiraizumi Station (76 Hiraizumi Izumiya, Hiraizumi, Nishiiwai District, Iwate 029-4102)
TEL: 0191-46-5710 FAX: 0191-46-3518
Open: 9:00am – 4:00pm (year-round)
Are there are bag storage locations or coin-operated lockers available?
There are no coin-operated lockers at Chūson-ji Temple. Please use the lockers at Hiraizumi Station.
Are pets (dogs, etc.) allowed on the premises? What if I am escorting them?
Pets can be walked around the premises. However, all pets are prohibited from entering the Konjikidō (Golden Hall) and Sankōzō, or their surrounding areas, so if visiting with a pet, please do so with two or more people so one person can watch after the pet while others enter. Please remember to always keep an eye on your pets as well.
Where is the closest interchange?
The nearest interchange is the Tohoku EXPY Hiraizumi / Maesawa IC.
See via Google Maps
Where is the nearest parking lot? (elderly travelers, those with issues walking, etc.)
The closest private parking lot is the Sakanoue (Hilltop) Parking Lot (capacity: 30 vehicles). From the local municipal parking lot, going up the Chūson-ji Tsukimizaka, you can see Chūson-ji Temple front approach.
For inquiries on accessing other sights and accommodations, etc.
Lots of information is published on the Hiraizumi Tourism Association website.
Hiraizumi Tourist Guide Hiraizumi Navi (Hiraizumi Tourism Association)
How many commemorative stamp (Goshuin) locations are there?
There are three stamp locations available year-round, including the main hall, Sankōzō, and Konjikidō. If including the sub-temples, there are 11 locations in total.
What time do ticket sales end? By what time should visitors leave the premises?
We close at 5:00pm, so please purchase a ticket at least 10 minutes prior to closing.
※ Closing at 4:30pm during winter (Nov 4 – Feb 28).
※ For those who do enter 10 minutes prior to closing, there may be cases in which they are requested to only visit the Konjikidō, and refrain from visiting Sankōzō.