The Chusonji Temple is the head temple of the Tendai sect of Buddhism in Tohoku, and was founded in 850 by the high priest Jikaku Daishi Ennin at Hieizan Enryakuji Temple. Fujiwara no Kiyohira, the first family head of the Oshu-Fujiwara clan would later go on to complete a major extension to the site in 1105 in the hopes that the teachings of the Buddha would pave the way to an ideal, peaceful society. It was said that, in its prime there were many temple buildings built on the site, with over 40 temple towers and 300 monk quarters. After around 100 years of prosperity, the temple eventually fell into ruin with the death of Fujiwara at the hands of Minamoto no Yoritomo in 1189. As Chuson-ji Temple continued to decline, many of the temple halls and priceless artifacts were burnt to nothing in the fire of 1337.
Thankfully, the Konjikido (golden pavilion) was the one structure to escape this fate, and remains standing today, giving us an idea of what the temple might have looked like when it was first built. This is a temple hall containing an enshrined image of Amitabha, which was built by Kiyohira in 1124, and has been designated as one of the first National Treasures. The hall interior and exterior are gilded in a gilt known as Kaikonjiki, and are decorated in mother-of-pearl work using turban shells, and a collection of ivory, precious stone and other crafting techniques common to the period. Its beautiful, refined appearance is said to symbolize the golden culture of Hiraizumi.
In 2011, Hiraizumi was registered as a World Heritage Site under the name “Hiraizumi – Temples, Gardens and Archaeological Sites Representing the Buddhist Pure Land,” which encompasses five components - Chuson-ji Temple, the home of precious cultural assets including Buddhist art, Motsuji Temple, Kanjizaioin Ato, Muryokoin Ato, and Mt. Kinkei, located at the center of Hiraizumi.