Hiraizumi was inscribed as a World Heritage site in June 2011.

General Information about the Hiraizumi World Heritage Site Hiraizumi Iwate, World Heritage Information Center

世界遺産平泉・東北復興対談 達増拓也岩手県知事×ドナルド・キーン氏(日本文学研究者)

Hiraizumi as a Symbol of Reconstruction

(from the right)Takuya TASSO、Donald KEENE、Junko CHIBA

——As a symbol of reconstruction efforts, Hiraizumi plays an important role in providing people with something to believe in. What do you think about that, Governor Tasso?

Governor Hiraizumi was the center of reconstruction efforts when the Tohoku region was ruined in past wartimes. A 12th century warlord Fujiwara no Kiyohara built Chuson-ji Temple with a prayer (Chuson-ji memorial prayer) to establish a Buddhist land (a peaceful, ideal society based on the teachings of the Buddha) in the remote region of Tohoku, known then as Michinoku (“interior road”), to comfort the spirits of those who had died during wartime, regardless of whether friend or foe, and guide them to the Pure Land. A vow to not fight in any more wars is implied there. The ideals of “symbiosis between people” (comforting those who have died equally, regardless of whether friend or foe) and “symbiosis between people and nature” (creating a Pure Land amongst actual mountains and rivers, where people can live in nature) are present here.
 This view already existed in Hiraizumi 900 years ago. The ideals of symbiosis between people, and between people and nature, are extremely important in this day and age, and I want to place importance on them for our reconstruction efforts.

——As a soon-to-be Japanese citizen, what are your hopes and expectations for Japan recovering from the earthquake, Mr. Keene?

Keene I have a special story for you. During the winter of 1945, I flew from China to Atsugi, and then made my way towards Tokyo. Common sense would tell you that there would be more houses and buildings the closer you got to the center of the city, but in actuality the opposite was true: there were fewer homes as you got more central. Only smoke stacks and storehouses remained. No buildings that people may have lived in could be seen anywhere. Anyone who saw Tokyo at that time would have never thought that the city could be reconstructed.
 Having seen such a sight, I have faith that the day will come when Tohoku is fully reconstructed, just like Tokyo was. Living conditions will be extremely difficult for a while, but I think Tohoku will become even more splendid than it was before.
 There are several similar cases in the long history of Japan. Consider the Ōnin War (1467–1477). At that time, Kyoto was the capital of Japan, and nearly all of this hub of Japanese culture went up in flames. You would never believe that such a city could become the capital once again. However, in just 10 short years, the Higashiyama Period was flourishing. Tea ceremony, Noh, and other forms of Japanese culture that are considered the most important traditions of the country are still passed on to this day. I believe the same is possible for Tohoku.

Governor I have visited the affected areas numerous times, and I often get thanked by the survivors at each visit. Despite the fact that they are enduring severe hardships, everyone is grateful for the support and assistance that has come from across the country and throughout the world. We simply must do our best to aid people who have such beautiful spirits.

Keene Even in the United States, the number of people with an affinity for Japan seems to be growing. I think it’s because of the fact that when the disaster struck, no looting occurred. Everyone remained orderly and did what needed to be done. The Japanese are an admirable people. When relief funds are sent to other countries, no one knows what happens to the money; there are concerns that the military might monopolize it. However, when it comes to Japan, there is no need for such worries.
 I received many letters from people, even those without any connection to Japan, that said they wanted to help out in any way they could. Some wanted to know how to send money, some wanted to turn theater income into relief money, and so on. It really raised the reputation of foreigners vis-à-vis the Japanese people.

——Spurred by the momentum of Hiraizumi being inscribed as a World Heritage Site, it seems that reconstruction has become a certainty, much like Kyoto and Tokyo in the past. It has lifted everybody’s heart.

Governor We have to make Iwate even better than it was before, but I know we can do it. Every city, town, and village has developed a reconstruction plan and is gradually deciding how to go about creating new lives and jobs for its citizens. Reconstruction efforts also have to be open. Iwate is rising to the occasion with the support of the entire country and the whole world. By reinforcing those connections, Iwate will be more amazing than it ever was before. Hiraizumi is a symbol of those sentiments.

Keene I agree. I look forward to seeing the area after it has been restored to its full glory.

Source:Iwate Nippo date 1 August 2012