When most people come to Japan for the first time, there are two places on their travel itinerary, Tokyo and Kyoto. They both offer unique sights and are both definitely worth visiting. If you are familiar with Japan, you most likely have heard about Kyoto and the rich history. Separated from the bombings during World War II, many of the historic structures in this city remain intact. One of these untouched places includes the Kiyomizu-dera Temple.
Kiyomizu-dera Temple has a long history. Although the current buildings were built in 1633, the actual temple was founded nearly 900 years earlier during the Heian period by Sakanoue no Tamuramaro. The temple belonged to the Hosso sect of Buddhism. However as recently as 1965, those affiliated with the Kiyomizu-dera Temple broke ties with the Hosso sect and began to recognize themselves as the Kitahosso sect of Buddhism. The name of the temple translates to pure or clean water and it is actually derived from the waterfall that is on the property located just below the main hall.
After making the trek up to the temple, you are greeted by a grand ornately decorated gate. Passing through the gates and entering the temple grounds, you will see artifacts from hundreds of years ago. Following the marked path will bring you to the main hall first. This entire wooden structure was not made with nails and it has been standing since it was built nearly 400 years ago. The main hall is characterized by the large balcony and the tall support pillars that stand out over the mountains and it provides great views of the Kyoto city landscape.
This impressive view has been enjoyed for centuries. There is even a saying associated with it, “Kiyomizu no butai kara tobioriru” or in English “Jumping off the Kiyomizu stage”. This is the same as the English saying “Take the plunge”. The saying actually comes from an Edo period tradition of jumping off from the main hall and if you managed to survive the 13 meter fall, your wish would be granted. There is about 234 jumps that were recorded but for obvious reasons, the practice is no longer allowed. Aside from the main hall, there are a number of other shrines as well as water features at this temple. There is the Jishu Shrine which is associated with the god of love. You can also cleanse yourself with the water from the waterfall.
The Kiyomizu-dera Temple is simply gorgeous. It doesn’t matter when you visit, you will be treated to a spectacular view. It is one of the reasons why this place is a World Heritage Site and it was even nominated for the consideration to become a new Seven Wonders of the World. Cherry blossoms during the spring, the temple has light soft hue to it, the summer brings lush green vegetation and the temple seems livelier. In autumn, the leaves change and the temperatures drops, the atmosphere is warmed by the orange of the leaves. Winter is a time of solemnity and reflection, if lucky you will be able to witness a snow covered Kiyomizu-dera Temple.
Otowa no Taki or the Otowa Waterfall is another must see spot at Kiyomizu-dera Temple. The name Kiyomizu-dera Temple comes from the pureness of the Otowa Waterfall’s water. There are three streams of pure water and each of them have different benefits. The benefits are academic achievements, fulfillment in love, and life longevity.
Ninen-zaka is the one of the streets to Kiyomizu-dera Temple and it leads to Sannen-zaka. Ninen means two years and Sannen means three years. There are some theories, but it is said that Ninen-zaka got it name because it is located just down past Sannen-zaka. It is also said that if you fall there, you will die within two years.
Sannen-zaka is a famous sight-seeing spot on Higashiyama. This is a narrow pathway made with cobblestones that lead up to Kiyomizu-dera Temple. This area has many historical building and it is protected by the Law for the Protection of Cultural Properties.
No matter when you visit, you will be treated to a memorable sight. The things to do in the temple are numerous and you may even find crowds of bird watchers on certain days. There are events that take place here and you can even enjoy some traditional Japanese Matcha. Keep in mind that this is a very popular temple and will be crowded during peak seasons.
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Address: 1-294 Kiyomizu, Higashiyama Ward, Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture
Access: 10 minute walk from Kiyomizumichi bus stop (route No. 100, 206 or 207)
Hours: 6:00 AM – 6:00 PM
300 yen (Adults)
200 yen (Children)
Website: Kiyomizu-dera Temple