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Hiraizumi's Cultural Heritage

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Excursion in Zipangu, the Land of Gold

Explore the modern-day Zipangu around Hiraizumi where Golden Culture still thrives

Marco Polo, a Venetian merchant who traveled throughout Asia in the 11th century, introduced Japan as “Zipangu, the Land of Gold” in The Travels of Marco Polo. He described that, in Zipangu, gold was produced everywhere and that there were palaces and houses made of gold. It is said that the golden palace which he had longed to see was the Konjikido, or the Golden Hall, of Chusonji Temple in Hiraizumi.

Hiraizumi was established about 900 years ago and flourished for about a century. The Oshu-Fujiwara clan who ruled the city were devout Buddhists, and built numerous temples and gardens using the gold produced in their fief. The peaceful and beautiful Buddhist city flourished under their rule, known as the period of Golden Culture. Unfortunately, many of the structures have been lost over the years through disasters and wars; however, the Golden Hall of Chusonji continues to fascinate people with the same radiance as in the days of Marco Polo. The hall is a mausoleum for the Oshu-Fujiwara lords, impressively covered with gold and decorated with mother-of-pearl. In addition, the museum Sankozo contains over 3000 items, including some national treasures and important cultural properties, which all tell us of the glory of Hiraizumi.


Golden Hall of Chusonji

Chusonji

Motsuji
 

At Chusonji and Motsuji, you can experience zazen meditation. Sitting cross-legged on the floor of a large hall, reset and free your mind. The monk watching over you will occasionally strike your shoulder with a stick called keisaku to help you concentrate.

Another charm of Hiraizumi is its natural scenery such as cherry blossoms and fall colors. Tsukimizaka, a gentle slope that leads to the Golden Hall, is lined with impressive 350-year-old pine trees. Along the slope there is an observation deck called Higashimonomi, from which you can see Kitakami River and the beautiful countryside. Elsewhere in Hiraizumi,you can take in the sublime beauty of places like the serene Muryokoin Temple Site, with Mt. Kinkei rising behind it; Motsuji Temple, with its original gardens left nearly intact; the Kanjizaioin Temple Site, with its restored lawns, pond, and groves; and the Yanagi no Gosho Site. Motsuji Temple is also famous for its purple, white, and yellow irises in early summer, as well as its purple hagi (Japanese bush clover), which blooms in fall.


Muryokoin Temple Site

Kanjizaioin Temple Site

Wisteria flowers
 

The Spring Fujiwara Festival

The Gokusui no En

Chusonji Bonfire Noh
 

Such flowers add color to various festivals held in Hiraizumi. In the Spring Fujiwara Festival, people dressed up in Heian-style costumes parade through the town; in the Gokusui no En, people reenact a poetry contest which was popular among the nobility in the Heian period. Other elegant and solemn festivals are Ennen no Mai and Chusonji Bonfire Noh.

A popular souvenir of Iwate that embodies its Golden Culture is Hidehira-nuri lacquerware. Most common Hidehira-nuri products are bowls with unique gold diamond-shaped patterns and designs that symbolize clouds, plants, and fruits. Light yet sturdy, they are both practical and beautiful, gaining luster over time. Another great souvenir is Kinbego, cute golden cow dolls modeled after the cows that were once used for carrying the gold produced in the area.


Hidehira-nuri lacquerware
 

Esashi Fujiwara no Sato

If you want to try fun “Heian-style” activities, head to Esashi Fujiwara no Sato Heritage Park, which contains over 100 reconstructed historical buildings of Tohoku from 800 to 1200 years ago. Many movies and TV dramas have been shot here for its authentic, historical atmosphere. You can try many activities such as wearing a Heian-style kimono, painting pictures on clam shells, and playing various games enjoyed by the Heian nobility. The restaurant offers Heian-style menus as well.

 

Ski Resorts in Iwate

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Appi Kogen - Nonstop Powder and Long, Luxurious Runs

Come experience the powder drawing more overseas skiers and boarders every year.


Appi Kogen Ski Resort

People look for different things when choosing a ski resort: snow quality, snow quantity, size of the slopes, trail layout, etc. Iwate boasts a number of high-quality ski resorts for skiers of all levels. Why not find your ideal ski resort here in Iwate?

The Appi Kogen Ski Resort in Hachimantai is one of the largest ski resorts in Tohoku, with a vertical drop of 805 m. There are 21 trails, 12 of which are over 2 km long. The total trail length is 45.1 km. The trails stretch radially from the peak, a layout which is rare in Japan. The 3-km Hayabusa Course is for advanced and intermediate-level skiers, with a maximum slope of 30 degrees. You ski straight down from the peak for 800 m; there are not many other ski areas with such a long, straight trail. Along with its various trails, another characteristic of Appi Kogen is its high-quality snow, often referred to as “aspirin snow” for its fine, light, dry texture that resembles powdered aspirin. Appi Kogen is located at 40 degrees north, the same latitude as other great ski areas such as Arlberg and Aspen. In addition, it is located by Hachimantai's frost-covered forest, receiving the dry snow which has passed through the forest. The snow is compacted every day to improve trail conditions.


Appi Kogen Ski Resort


Appi Kogen Ski Resort

 


Hachimantai Resort Panorama and Shimokura Ski Areas


Amihari Ski Resort

Another excellent ski resort in Hachimantai is the Hachimantai Resort Panorama and Shimokura Ski Areas, where you can enjoy two different ski areas. The Shimokura Ski Area is popular among advanced and intermediate-level skiers for its high-quality snow.

In Shizukuishi, there are three ski resorts: the Amihari Ski Resort with dynamic trails through frost-covered trees and forests; the Iwate Kogen Snow Park, easily accessible from Morioka; and the Shizukuishi Ski Resort. The Shizukuishi Resort has 12 scenic trails, one of which is a 4500-m trail with a vertical drop of 791 m, which was the site of the 1993 World Alpine Ski Championships. There is also a resort hotel where you can enjoy dishes made with fresh local ingredients, as well as open-air hot spring baths.

The Geto Kogen Ski Resort in Kitakami is known for its abundant snow and excellent trail conditions. The facility also boasts one of the largest food courts in Japan, where you can eat a variety of menus such as ramen and Kitakami croquettes.

 


Iwate Kogen Snow Park


Shizukuishi Ski Resort


Geto Kogen Ski Resort

 

Kitayamazaki

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Kitayamazaki—A Turbulent Symphony of Earth and Sea

Endlesss, majestic sea cliffs soar up from the Pacific in Rikuchu Kaigan National Park.

The eastern edge of Iwate is a 160-km coastline along the Pacific Ocean called the Sanriku Coast. There are over 10 municipalities along the coastline, accounting for a third of all the municipalities in Iwate.


Kitayamazaki

The Sanriku Coast is known for its unique rias shoreline that consists of many long and narrow inlets, where the ocean and the mountains seem to intertwine. The Northern Sanriku and the Southern Sanriku have completely different topographical features, with Miyako as the boundary. The Northern Sanriku is an elevated coast with many precipices and reefs; the Southern Sanriku is a submerged coast with numerous inlets and capes. There are many scenic spots along the Sanriku Coast, such as the Goishi Coast on the Southern Sanriku. But perhaps Kitayamazaki of Tanohata Village is the most renowned landscapes of the Sanriku Coast.


Unosu Cliff

Kitayamazaki, located on the Northern Sanriku, consists of 200-meter cliffs that stretch across 8 km of coastline. It is nicknamed “the Alps of the Sea” for its grandeur, and has received the highest rating in the "natural resource: coast" category of National Tourist Resource Evaluation by the Japan Travel Bureau Foundation, which is the same rating as Mt. Fuji. Near Kitayamazaki, there is another dynamic landscape called Unosu Cliff or “Cormorants' Nest Cliff.”

 

There are many activities offered at the Kitayamazaki Visitors Center by the Kitayamazaki Observation Deck. One of them is Sappa Boat Adventures, in which you ride a small fishing boat called sappa and enjoy the view of Kitayamazaki from the sea. It is a thrilling one-hour round-trip tour from the Raga Fishing Port to Kitayamazaki Observation Deck. You will feel strong wind and waves splashing at you while the boat dodges reefs. The climax of the tour is going through cave mouths. You will go through about 4 caves, but the Tsubame Cave can only be approached when the waves are calm. But if you do get to go inside, you will see emerald green seawater glistening in the sunlight. If you are lucky, you might even get to enjoy fresh seafood on the boat.


Sappa Boat Adventures

 


Sappa Boat Adventures


Kitayamazaki Nature Trekking

Other activities include Kitayamazaki Nature Trekking, in which you will walk along the Kitayamazaki Esplanade that leads to the shore, and Banya Cuisine Experience, in which you cook fresh seafood such as sea urchins and sea pineapples in a banya, traditional workplace and lodging for local fishermen.

 

The Cultural Heritaege of Hiraizumi―Toward World Heritage Inscription

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