I managed to visit three sites in Hiraizumi in only one day: Takkoku no Iwaya, Chusonji and Motsuji Temples.
There was a bit of rushing involved, but it’s definitely doable! Not to forget that I started my day in Morioka to visit the castle ruins there!
Access to Takkoku no Iwaya:
Takkoku no Iwaya (達谷窟) can be accessed by bus from either JR Hiraizumi Station (10 mins) or Motsuji Temple (8 mins). Take the “Hiraizumi – Takkoku Line” (平泉・達谷線). A one-way trip will cost about 390 yen. There’s a bus roughly every 20-30 minutes from around 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. After that time there are almost no buses anymore.
I highly recommend getting a bus timetable in English at the Tourist Information Center of JR Hiraizumi Station!
Takkoku no Iwaya Bishamon Hall (達谷窟毘沙門堂) was established in 801 by Sakanoue no Tamuramaro. He built the hall to thank the god of war, Bishamon, after defeating his enemy Akuro Takamaro.
The hall is built in the style of Kyoto‘s Kiyomizudera.
108 statues were set up in the hall. It was a place where people could pray for peace.
In 1490 the hall burnt down, but was immediately rebuilt. After that there were several other fires and eventually only the main figure of Buddha and 20 other statues could be saved.
The current Takkoku no Iwaya Bishamon Hall was rebuilt in 1961.
There’s a Buddha statue deep inside the Bishamon Hall. It is said that Jigaku Daishi carved it in the Heian era.
It is not open to the public and enclosed in a cabinet that was a present from the Date family.
In certain intervals it’s accessible for the public, a very rare occasion!
Bishamon, the god of war:
Bishamon (毘沙門) is one of the Japanese Seven Gods of Fortune and the guardian of the people who were born in the year of the tiger.
You can recognize him as the one holding a small pagoda in one hand and a spear in the other. He fights demons and invites happiness.
On the huge rock behind the Takkoku no Iwaya Bishamon Hall you’ll find a Buddha carving: Ganmen Daibutsu.
A legend says that it was carved by Minamoto no Yoshiie by firing arrows at the sandstone cliff.
The Buddha is one of the five large Buddhas in Japan. It’s 16.5m high and used to be a full figure of a sitting Buddha in heaven.
An earthquake in 1896 destroyed the lower part of the stone carving.
At the Takkoku no Iwaya temple grounds you can also pray and write your wishes on a wooden wishing plaque called “ema“.
The Bishamon Hall is the main attraction of Takkoku no Iwaya, but there are also some other halls such as the Benten Hall, Fudo Hall and Kondo (Golden Hall).
The pond surrounding the Benten Hall is called Gama no Ike (Toad Pond).
I think I found Mt. Fuji on one of the stone lanterns!
Before leaving I enjoyed the nature that surrounds the temple grounds.