At Ichinoseki Station, switch to the JR Tohoku Line and arrive in Hiraizumi in about ten minutes. The city of Hiraizumi was built by the Oshu Fujiwara Clan in the late 11th century and fl ourished for about a century. The zenith of Hiraizumi’s prosperity came during the rule of the third-generation head of the Fujiwara Clan, Hidehira, and during this time Hiraizumi was considered to be a rival of Kyoto in terms of cultural sophistication and wealth. Traces of its legacy as a seat of the Pure Land sect of Buddhism can be seen and felt even today. Chuson-ji Temple is said to have been founded in 850 by the Buddhist priest Jikaku-Daishi, but it was greatly enlarged by the first head of the Oshu Fujiwara, Kiyohira, in the early part of the 12th century. The approach to the temple is lined by majestic cypress trees more than 300 years old. Konjiki-do Hall (Golden Hall), established in 1124, is the only remaining original structure among the many halls built during this period. The whole surface of the hall is covered in gold leaf, and within the hall are enshrined a large number of intricately carved and gilded Buddhist statues and golden altars. The extensive temple precincts are home to some 3,000 national treasures and important cultural properties. Motsu-ji Temple in its glory days could boast of splendor even greater than that of Chuson-ji. The temple building was completely destroyed by fire, but its restored Buddhist Pure Land stroll garden is considered one of the finest examples of its type. The remains of Kanjizaio-in Temple, of Muryoko-in Temple, and the Mt. Kinkei are among the other interesting sight-seeing spots in the area. For getting around, rent-a-cycle is a good option. The surrounding countryside offers some fine scenery. Of particular interest are the two gorges of Geibikei and Genbikei. Geibikei (to the east) is a dramatic river gorge of the Satetsu River extending for 2 km with the cliffs of the gorge soaring 30 m to 100 m in height. Rides are available on flat-bottomed boats, and the scene is like a traditional ink painting. Genbikei (to the west) is another popular river area with cliffs naturally carved by erosion by the swift current of the Iwai River. There is a walking path along the 2 km gorge and the views of the cliffs and strangely shaped rocks are dynamic.