Hiraizumi is the site of the aristocratic culture which was transplanted from Kyoto by Fujiwara Kiyohira and his successors, Motohira and Hidehira, who wielded supreme power over eastern Japan in the early 12th century.
It is situated on Seki-san, a hill overlooking a vast landscape. Once there were about forty temples and more than three hundred buildings in which lived the priests. Out of all these buildings, there remain only two building to show us something of the past splendor, the Konjiki-do and the Kyo-zo.
The Konjiki-do was erected in 1124 by order of Fujiwara Kiyohira, who wished it to serve as his own mausoleum. It is a small one-storied edifice, 18 ft. square, fully decorated in the interior with artistic designs in gold lacquer and inlaid mother-of-pearl. The outside was originally overlaid with gold leaf, whence its name, Konjiki-do, or Gold-colored Chapel. In the 13th century the whole building was protected by an outer covering built around it. The interior is wonderfully well preserved. The image of Amida and his attendant figures are enthroned on a dais, under which lie buried Kiyohira, Motohira and Hidehira. The columns, brackets, tie-beams, and other horizontal members are profusely decorated with the hosoge design, mother-of-pearl on a lacquered ground, and their colors harmonize beautifully. The panels on each side of the dais are deco-rated with peacocks in gilt-repousse, and their tails are studded with colorful gems. The whole interior is of the best style of the later Fujiwara decorative art and can be compared with that of the main part of Ho-o-do or the Phoenix Hall in Kyoto.
The Kyo-zo was built in 1108 for the purpose of preserving Buddhist sutras. Along the walls are wooden shelves on which are arranged many black lacquered sutra-cases. In the middle of the room is an octagonal dais decorated with mother-of-pearl inlaid and gilded metal fittings. In front of the dais are several pieces of lacquered furniture, also rare, examples of later Fujiwara style. Their delicate workmanship is most worthy of notice.
Besides these two sacred buildings is the Treasury (Homotsu-kwan) in which are installed numerous excellent examples of art objects produced in the 12th century.