Hiraizumi – Temples, Gardens and Archaeological Sites Representing the Buddhist Pure Land

Hiraizumi – Temples, Gardens and Archaeological Sites Representing the Buddhist Pure Land is a Cultural World Heritage Sites (#1277) with exceptional combination of gardens, water, and the surrouding landscape. The Hiraizumi site makes up for a fantastic combination with Sendai and the Matsushima Bay.
 
WHEN TO GO
The Hiraizumi world heritage site can be enjoyed year round. However, as most of the sites are outdoor, I recommend to avoid the rainy season in June and July to optimize chances of good weather.
 
HOW TO GET THERE
From Sendai, it is possible to book a full day bus tour, which is my recommendation, as that will give you easy transportation between the sites, which otherwise can be rather time consuming and difficult.
 
HOW LONG TO STAY
The Hirazumi site makes up for a perfect weekend combination with Sendai and the Matsushim Bay. If you have limited time, Hiraizumi can also be reached in a day tour from Tokyo, starting very early morning and ending late.
 
DAY ONE
08.00AM - Depart from Tokyo to Sendai
09.30AM - Arrive at Sendai
12.00PM - Depart to Matsushima Bay, Sendai to Hon-Shiogama
13.00PM - Take boat cruise to Matsushima
14.00PM - Explore sites and islands around Matsushima
17.30PM - Take train back to Sendai
18.00PM - Arrive in Sendai and have Beef tounge for dinner
 
DAY TWO
07.00AM - Breakfast
08.30AM - Day tour to Hiraizumi world heritage sites
12.00PM - Lunch
16.30PM - Bus back to Sendai
18.30PM - Shinkansen back to Tokyo
20.00PM - Arrive back in Tokyo
 
HOW MUCH ARE THE COSTS
Travelling as a tourist with a JR Pass, you save the Shinkansen fee, which is the most expensive when visiting the Hiraizumi world heritage sites.
 
JPY 21,380 - Shinkansen return ticket from Tokyo to Sendai
JPY 5,000 - Day tour from Sendai to Hiraizumi
JPY 2,900 - Boat cruise in Matsushima Bay (1st class)
JPY 1,000 - Return train tickets from Sendai to Matsushima Bay
JPY 4,000 - Accomodation in Sendai
 
Total cost about JPY 35,000 without a JR pass and JPY 14,000 with a JR pass.
 
WHERE TO STAY
I recommend to stay in a convenient located, close to Sendai station, business hotel.
 
WHAT TO DO / WHERE TO GO
1. Matsushima Bay Boat Cruise
From the Shiogama marine gate you can take several different cruises around or through the Matsushima Bay. The Marubun kisen cruise boat tour have an one hour Basho cruise from Hon-Shiogama to the Matsushima bay pier.
 
matsushima bay boat matsushima bay birds
Matsushima bay cruise boat and following birds
 
The boat cruise takes you thorugh the Matsushima Bay, which greatly protected the area during the 11 March Earthquake and following Tsunami. The bay is famous for its countless small islands, which have names and are famous for various features, like the Niojima island and Kanejima island.
 
matsushima small islands matsushima bay niojima matsushima bay kanejima
Some of the "famous" islands of the hundreds in the Matsushima bay
 
2. Explore the Fukuurajima island and take a view over the Matsushima bay
While the The Fukuurajima island is rather small and there is not much to do on the island, it is still possible to spend about an hour there going down the small trails to see the "beaches". Afterwards head up the hill to get a view over the Matsushima bay, the up-hill hike is rewarded with maginficent views over the bay and the islands.
 
matsushima bay view matsushima fukuurajima red bridge matsushima fukuurajima shore
Fukuurajima island
 
3. The Genbikie Gorge
Take a full day bus tour from Sendai the World Heritage Site Hiraizumi. The first attraction will be the Genbikei Gorge. The locals have developed a system to transport goods across the gorge.
 
hiraizumi genbikei gorge hiraizumi genbikei gorge transport goods
The Genbikei gorge
 
4. Takkoku no iwaya Temple
Built into the rocks, this is definititely an unique experience.
 
hiraizumi takkoku no iwaya temple hiraizumi takkoku no iwaya red bridge
Takkoku no iwaya Temple and pond
 
5. Motsuji Temple
Motsuji temple and its garden, which represents the Buddhist Pure Land is one of the main sites that are included in the Hiraizumi world heritage inscription.
 
hiraizumi motsuji temple hiraizumi motsuji smoke hiraizumi motsuji pond hiraizumi motsuji dragon boat
Motsuji temple and pond
 
6. Chusonji Temple
Oone of the main attractions of Hiraizumi, the Chusonji Temple. It is not allowed to take photos inside the protective building, that covers the Konjikido. Konjikido is a completely gold covered hall which is breath-taking and reminds one of the Kinkakuji Temple (Golden Pavilion) in Kyoto.
 
hiraizumi chusonji noh theater hiraizumi chusonji
Chusonji Temple
 
7. Geibikei Gorge
Take the small boat cruise through the Geibikei gorge. Try to throw stone into a hole on the opposite side of the water or buy food for the gigantic koi fish.
 
hiraizumi geibikei gorge mist hiraizumi geibikei gorge duck boat mist hiraizumi geibikei gorge boat
hiraizumi geibikei gorge stone throw hiraizumi geibikei gorge lion nose hiraizumi geibikei gorge duck
The Geibikei gorge
 
WHAT TO EAT
Sendai is famous for its beef tongue, a must try delicate if you go to Sendai.
  
WHAT TO REMEMBER
1. Geibikei is more famous than Genbikei
Do not confuse these two sites with similar names. I recommend to see both, but if you only have time to see one, I strongly advice you to see the Geibikei gorge.

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