I was feeling really good after my successful expedition to Fushimi Inari Shrine and I decided to follow it up by visiting another of Kyoto’s biggest attractions, Kiyomizudera Temple. Originally founded in 778, Kiyomizudera is one of the most famous Buddhist temples in all of Japan and its name translates to “Pure Water Temple.” To reach the temple I took the traditional route through the Higashiyama District and soon I was at the front entrance of the temple, which is marked by a large vermillion gate. Just beyond the gate are a few smaller temple buildings and the ticket office that leads into the temple’s paid area.
Kiyomizudera Temple’s main hall was under renovation when I visited but much of it was still open to visitors. While inside I got a photo of one of the shrines inside the building, though it occurred to me immediately after that photography inside the main hall is probably prohibited, so I didn’t take any other photos inside the building.
The main hall has an outdoor stage that looks out on the rest of the temple grounds. In the photo above you can see the temple buildings below the main hall, as well as Koyasu Pagoda in the distance. I would be visiting that part of Kiyomizudera in a little bit but first there were some other parts of the temple to see.
Next to Kiyomizudera’s main hall are a number of smaller shrines, including Jishu Shrine, which is dedicated to the Buddhist deity of love. Two stones are located in front of Jishu and it is said that if you can find your way from one stone to the other while keeping your eyes closed you will find your true love. If a friend assists you in walking between the stones that means that you’ll need another person’s help in finding romance.
From around the side of the main hall you can get one of the most iconic views in Kyoto. The main hall was covered over in scaffolding during my 2019 visit but I saw online that the restoration work was completed in 2021, so if you’re able to visit Kiyomizudera in the future you’ll get an even better view than what I’m showing in today’s post.
Here’s a zoomed-in shot of the main hall’s outdoor stage.
I then walked around to the southern end of the temple to where Koyasu Pagoda is located. Visiting the pagoda is said to grant women safety in childbirth and the pagoda area also has a nice view looking back towards the main hall. Not too many people come out to this part of Kiyomizudera so if you need a brief break from the crowds try hiking over to the pagoda.
Next I went down to the area below Kiyomizudera’s main hall. Down in this part of the temple grounds is Otowa Waterfall, where visitors can drink from three separate streams of water. The three streams grant different kinds of luck—in romance, in school, and in longevity—but drinking from multiple streams is considered greedy. I drank from the middle stream but I’m not sure which kind of luck that stream represents. In 2017 I drank from the stream on the left in the photos above, so whenever I’m able to next visit Kiyomizudera I’ll need to be sure to drink from the stream on the right.
At this point I had seen most of the temple grounds but before heading towards the exit I spent a minute looking up at the main hall. Kiyomizudera’s current main hall was built in 1633 and does not have a single nail or screw in it. Instead, the wood used for the temple hall was expertly cut so that all the wood pieces would interlock with each other, creating a strong structure that has stood for almost 400 years. While gazing up at the outdoor stage I was also reminded of the old tradition that stated that if a person could jump from the platform and survive the fall to the ground their wish would be granted. The stage is about 13 meters (43 feet) above the ground, but apparently around 85% of the recorded jumpers survived, which is higher than I’d expect. Jumping from Kiyomizudera’s stage has been banned since 1872 so don’t expect to see any tourists taking the plunge when you visit the temple.
With my tour of the temple complete, I made my way out of Kiyomizudera. The route back to the entrance took me along a path shaded by trees, many of them with leaves changing colors. Quite a few of the other visitors along the path were dressed in kimonos and this combined with the temple’s natural beauty made for a really pleasant stroll. When I exited Kiyomizudera Temple I was feeling great, having knocked out two of Kyoto’s biggest tourist attractions by the early afternoon, but my sightseeing was not over yet. I had a few more places in the city to visit that day and then a couple more the following morning before I’d be leaving Kyoto.