Iwate Prefecture’s Kamaishi City is one of the hosts for the Rugby World Cup 2019. The area is full of beautiful and historic sites for you to see and experience, but of special note are their two UNESCO World Heritage Sites. These sites are well worth the trip on their own merit for anyone interested in Buddhism or industrial history, so are highly recommending for anyone in the area for the matches.
The Cultural Heritage of Hiraizumi was inscribed on the World Heritage List in 2011. This historic city of Iwate is home to ruins that once served as the government of the northern realm of Japan during the Heian period (8th-12th centuries.) For a vibrant but short 100 years, Hiraizumi existed as a small kingdom in present-day Iwate Prefecture and its prosperity and grandeur rivalled that of even Kyoto. Its founder, Lord Kiyohira of the Oshu-Fujiwara clan, grew up in a land ravaged by war, thus strived to make Hiraizumi a place of peace for all. He did this according to the tenets of Pure Land Buddhism, and indeed Hiraizumi’s temples and gardens were built as a representation of the Buddhist “Heaven on earth”. The World Heritage Site of Hiraizumi is comprised of five sites: Chuson-ji Temple, Motsu-ji Temple, Kanjizaio-in Ato, Muryoko-in Ato and the sacred Mount Kinkeisan.
Chuson-ji Temple is home to a the radiant golden Buddhist altar called Konjikido. Konjikido was built around 800 years ago, making it one of the oldest structures of its kind in the entire world. The altar is covered in gold leaf and mother-of-pearl inlays, and it is through Konjikido that Iwate Prefecture has earnt the name “The Golden Land”.
Motsu-ji Temple is home to the best example of a Buddhist Pure Land Garden in Japan, both due to its beauty and because few others remain. It was once a grand complex, home to more than forty halls and pagodas, and more than five hundred monks’ quarters. The central garden that surrounds the “Oizumigaike pond” exemplifies the elegance of this ancient garden design and technique.
All that remains of this temple are a few foundation stones and the remains of the ponds, as the surrounding area has been almost completely transformed into paddy fields. This is thought to be the final form of the Buddhist Pure Land gardens that were developed in Hiraizumi, as it represents the Buddhist Pure Land in unison with the mountains in the background.
When Japan entered the period known as the “Meiji Period (1868-1912)”, there was a great push to industrialise to western standards. Recognized as the oldest western-style blast furnace in Japan, the Hashino Iron Mining and Smelting Site was registered on the World Heritage List as one of the “Sites of Japan’s Meiji Industrial Revolution” in 2015.
These sites, scattered throughout Japan, represent that fast-moving industrialization of Japan, from the middle of the 19th century to the early 20th century. All that remains now of Hashino are three weathered and moss-covered furnaces, two of which were built around 1860. The surrounding park also has many informative signs for history fans, with illustrations.