Motsu-ji was once a massive Buddhist complex founded in the 12th century and formed by temples, halls, pagodas and gardens. Nowadays all of the original structures are gone and only the foundation stones and earthworks remain. Motsu-ji's garden, however, has been preserved throughout the years and it's considered as an outstanding example of the Heian era (794-1192) gardening technique style.
The garden is designated as Special Historic Site and is one of the few remaining Pure Land Gardens in Japan, which attempt to recreate the concept of Buddhist paradise. It is centered around a huge pond named Ozumi ga Oki, which is best enjoyed by walking the 500m path surrounding it.
Takkoku no Iwaya is a Buddhist temple founded in the 9th century and dedicated to Bishamon, the God of war. Its main structure is partly located inside a massive rock wall and was constructed mimicking the style of Kyoto's Kiyomizudera temple. The original structure was burnt down and rebuilt several times along its history and the present construction dates from 1961.
Takkoku no Iwaya's most famous feature is the Ganmen Daibutsu, a massive 16.5 meter high carving of Buddha located on the sandstone cliff. It was originally a full figure representing the seated Buddha in heaven, but the lower part was destroyed by an earthquake in 1896. It is believed the carving dates from the Muromachi era (1337-1573) and it is considered as one of the giant Buddhas in Japan, together with Nara's and Kamakura's.
Tohoku Main Line
Hiraizumi is best explored by rental bikes, which can be rented in front of JR Hiraizumi Station. Most attractions are within a 10 minute bike ride of each other, except for Tokkoku no Iwaya which is located at about 5Km from Motsu-ji Temple.
Alternatively, Chuson-ji and Motsu-ji can be reached on foot or on a short bus ride from JR Hiraizumi Station.