During the Heian Period (794-1185), the Fujiwara were the most powerful clan in Japan. In 1105, Hiraizumi (平泉) was chosen as the seat of the "Northern branch" of the Fujiwara family. The city steadily grew in cultural sophistication and political power, so that it even came to rival Kyoto, the national capital.

In 1189, however, Hiraizumi was razed by Minamoto Yoritomo, the man who would soon after become Japan's first shogun. Yoritomo was looking for his brother and rival Yoshitsune, who was being given refuge by the local Fujiwara leader. The city never recovered its former prominence, but it still features some of the Tohoku Region's most precious historic sites.

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