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Photo By: Nohchi Oda
Region
Tohoku
Island
Honshu
Largest City
Morioka
Population
1,416,198

Chuson-ji Temple

Visit the golden pavilion of the north deep within the mountains of Iwate Prefecture.

At the top of Mount Kanzan lies Chuson-ji Temple in northern Japan’s Iwate Prefecture. Housing the “Golden Pavilion” of the north, it’s a scenic spot that lets you experience a beautiful temple without the crowds and a few ancient surprises.

Konjikido Temple

Chusonji Temple Konjikido

Photo by: Pohan Chen Konjikido in winter.

The highlight of Chuson-ji is Konjikido Hall, founded in 1124. The small building is covered in gold and often compared to Kinkakuji, the world-famous Golden Pavilion in Kyoto. It showcases several forms of art and culture from the period it was constructed, such as lacquer work, metalwork, and pearl inlays.

Konjikido also houses the mummified remains of leaders of the Fujiwara Clan. Lord Kiyohira’s mummified body was placed under the central altar. The remains of his son, Motohira, were discovered below the northwest altar.

Konjikido Temple

Photo by: lin Judy (快樂雲) Konjikido houses the mummified remains of the Fujiwara clan leaders.

Originally built outdoors and exposed to the elements, a second structure was built around Konjikido in 1288 for protection. Today, it is surrounded by glass within a concrete building, and photography of the interior is prohibited.

The Sankozo Museum, also called the Treasure Hall, opened in 2000 to preserve Chuson-ji’s historic treasures. More than 3,000 important cultural properties and national treasures are housed here, such as Buddhist statues, scriptures, and other relics that survived the devastating fire.

Chuson-ji history

Chuson-ji Temple Noh Theatre

Photo by: Yasunari(康就) Nakamura(中村) Every August, there is a performance at the temple’s Noh Theatre

This UNESCO World Heritage Site was founded by a Buddhist monk named Ennin in 850, known for studying Buddhism around Japan and recording a travelogue.

In the 12th century, Lord Kiyohara of the Fujiwara clan undertook a large-scale construction project to expand the temple in memory of the lives lost during previous wars. At its height, Chuson-ji had more than 40 halls and pagodas, and 300 residences for monks. 

Chusonji hachimando

Hachimando Hall Shrine on Chuson-ji Temple’s grounds.

The temple complex declined after 100 years during a period of political strife. Only two temple structures survived a massive fire in the 1300s. The same buildings still stand today—the Konjikido Temple and a storehouse for religious sutras.

A few buildings were rebuilt over the following centuries, including the main hall. Many Buddhist rituals associated with the temple still occur. Built in 1909, it houses a historical Buddha, with eternal flames lit on either side.

Visitors can get to Chuson-ji by making their way up the Tsukimi-zaka (moon-viewing hill), lined by trees planted during the Tokugawa period (1603-1868).

Things To Know

Hours and Fees

Entry to the temple complex is free, but some of the buildings have an entry fee.

Konjikido and the museum cost a combined total of ¥800 per adult, ¥500 for high schoolers, ¥300 for junior high, and ¥200 for elementary school children.

Admission is from 8.30 a.m. to 5 p.m. (4.30 p.m. in the winter, from Nov. 4 through Feb. 28).

When to go

Chuson-ji is open year-round but is exceptionally beautiful in the fall during koyo (leaf-viewing) season.

In early May, many visitors also come for the Fujiwara Festival to see the festival procession, a memorial burning of incense, and prayer for world peace.

You can also visit in August when unique lotus flowers at the mountain base are in full bloom. Known as the Chuson-ji lotus, they were germinated from 800-year old seeds that were found inside a casket in Konjikido hall. Every Aug. 14, there is a noh performance at the temple’s noh theatre.

How To Get There

Address

Koromonoseki-200 Hiraizumi, Nishiiwai-gun, Iwate 029-4102, Japan

By train

From Tokyo, take the Tohoku-Hokkaido Shinkansen (bullet train) to Ichinoseki Station. Change to the JR Tohoku Line to JR Hiraizumi Station. From there, take the local Bus 21, Aeon Maesawaten, five minutes to Chuson-ji. It is 22 minutes via the #10 bus from Ichinoseki Station (Kokudo Minami line).

By car

The temple is about a five-and-a-half-hour drive from central Tokyo.

By foot

The temple is a 20-minute walk from Hiraizumi Station.

Where To Stay

Hiraizumi Club Farm & Resort
  • 78-1 Nagashima, Nishiiwai-gun Hiraizumi-cho, Iwate, 029-4101 Japan
  • ¥220,000 - ¥550,000
  • 3.7 km
Hotel Route-Inn Ichinoseki Inter
  • 33-1 Akogi, Ichinoseki-shi, Iwate, 021-0041 Japan
  • ¥8,000 - ¥24,000
  • 4.24/5 (712 reviews)
  • 7.1 km
Kamenoi Hotel Ichinoseki
  • 147-5 Gembicho, Ichinoseki-shi, Iwate, 021-0101 Japan
  • ¥9,975 - ¥15,404
  • 4.21/5 (432 reviews)
  • 7.4 km
Atto Business Hotel Ichinoseki
  • 73-1 Sannoseki, Ichinoseki-shi, Iwate, 021-0821 Japan
  • ¥5,800 - ¥13,000
  • 3.74/5 (630 reviews)
  • 9.0 km

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