Located in the southwestern part of Iwate Prefecture, Hiraizumi-cho once thrived as the second largest city after Heian-kyo (Kyoto). Today, Hiraizumi-cho is a popular destination for visitors who come to see one of the more unusual temples in Japan.
Constructed partially into the rock face of a cliff, Takkoku no Iwaya was founded during the 9th century by General Sakanoue no Tamuramaro. The temple’s founding was in commemoration of the general’s victory over a local warlord during his bid to expand into the northeastern territory. According to legend, the warlord, Akuro, was hiding out in this cave when he was defeated by Tamuramaro hence this location was chosen for the temple site. Fittingly, the temple is dedicated to Bishamon, the god of war.
Bishamon Hall built below an overhanging cliff has been rebuilt several times following destructive fires. It was built in the style of Kyoto‘s Kiyomizudera and there used to be 108 statues of Bishamon enshrined within its walls. The current hall is the reconstructed version completed in 1961. There was also a Ganmen Daibutsu (giant carving of Buddha) on the side of the cave. Unfortunately, an earthquake in 1896 destroyed the body and today only the head remains intact.
Although Bishamon Hall is the main attraction of Takkoku no Iwaya, there are other halls worth exploring such as Benten Hall, Fudo Hall and Kondo (Golden Hall). There is a pond surrounding Benten Hall called Gama no Ike (Toad Pond).
Touring Takkoku no Iwaya takes approximately 30 minutes, therefore it may be a good idea to combine this trip with tours of Hiraizumi-cho’s other famous temples, Chusonji and Motsuji. The temple is open to the public between the hours of 8:00 AM – 5:00 PM (April 1st – November 23rd) and from 8:00 AM – 4:30 PM (November 24th – March 31st). There is a nominal admission fee of ¥300.
Access is relatively easy via local bus from JR Hiraizumi Station. The journey will take you approximately 10 minutes.
Address 16 Kitazawa, Hiraizumi, Iwate 029-4102