Kiyomizudera, or Kiyozimu Temple, is a famous temple on the edge of the Higashiyama district of Kyoto.
The temple, whose name translates to “Pure Water”, was founded around the year 780AD. It centered around the Otowa Waterfall, valued for its clear water. The current temple buildings date back to 1633, and their historic significant was recognized in 1994 when the temple was included among a list of Kyoto sites honored with UNESCO World Heritage status.
The temple is probably best known for its iconic porch, which stands 13 meters above the ground on a series of 168 zelkova tree pillars. The platform offers visitors a stellar view of spring’s cherry blossoms and autumn foliage. The porch, and neighboring main hall, were both constructed without the use of nails. A Japanese expression “to jump off the porch at Kiyomizu” equates to the English phrase “to take the plunge”. Apparently, 234 people did just that during the Edo Period (1603-1868); those that survived allegedly would have their wishes granted. (About 85% of the attempts were successful.)
Kiyomizudera has several other notable buildings on its sprawling grounds. Behind the main hall is the Jishu Shrine, whose enshrined kami (god) is responsible for love and matchmaking. Visitors have the chance to walk blindfolded between two stones near the shrine that are placed 18 meters apart. Those that can successfully complete the task on their own are said to then be bestowed with luck for finding their perfect match. It’s alright to seek a bit of assistance to make it from one stone to the other, but this allegedly means you’ll always need help in your love life as well.
The temple also boasts a three-story pagoda, which recently underwent renovation. One of the tallest of its kind in Japan, the structure sports a collection of onigawara, roof tiles with demonic faces on them. Eagle-eyed visitors may also spot a dragon on the southeastern face, said to protect the pagoda from fire.
The temple’s namesake waterfall – Otowa no Taki – still sits on the grounds, and offers visitors the opportunity to guzzle a bit of the clear liquid which many believe extends one’s life.
The streets leading up to the temple are a popular shopping district, offering everything from quality souvenirs to local food specialties. Be sure to stop and taste some of the sample nama-yatsuhashi, a famous Kyoto snack made from pounded rice wrapped around various flavorings (red bean paste, chocolate and sakura are all popular fillings).
By City Bus: Get off at the Gojozaka Stop on Route 206 bound for Higasihama-dori Kitaoji Bus Terminal or Route 100 bound for Kiyomizu-dera Gion/Ginkaku-ji and walk 10 minutes. The bus can be crowded, especially after 11am and on weekends and Spring/ Autumn. Alternate route is Keihan train to Gojo and 15 minute walk via Sannenzaka, or catch a taxi.
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