Kiyomizu-dera, Kyoto

Kiyomizu-dera, Kyoto


Kiyomizu-dera ( 清水寺 ), officially Otowa-san Kiyomizu-dera ( 音羽山清水寺 ) is an independent Buddhist temple in eastern Kyoto. The temple is part of the Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto (Kyoto, Uji and Otsu Cities) UNESCO World Heritage site.

The place is not to be confused with Kiyomizu-dera in Yasugi, Shimane, which is part of the 33-temple route of the Chūgoku 33 Kannon Pilgrimage through western Japan, or the Kiyozumi-dera temple associated with the Buddhist priest Nichiren.

Kiyomizu-dera was founded in the early Heian period. The temple was founded in 778 by Sakanoue no Tamuramaro, and its present buildings were constructed in 1633, ordered by the Tokugawa Iemitsu. There is not a single nail used in the entire structure. It takes its name from the waterfall within the complex, which runs off the nearby hills. Kiyomizu means clear water, or pure water.

It was originally affiliated with the old and influential Hossō sect dating from Nara times. However, in 1965 it severed that affiliation, and its present custodians call themselves members of the “Kitahossō” sect.

The main hall has a large veranda, supported by tall pillars, that juts out over the hillside and offers impressive views of the city. Large verandas and main halls were constructed at many popular sites during the Edo period to accommodate large numbers of pilgrims.

The popular expression “to jump off the stage at Kiyomizu” is the Japanese equivalent of the English expression “to take the plunge”. This refers to an Edo period tradition that held that, if one were to survive a 13m jump from the stage, one’s wish would be granted. 234 jumps were recorded in the Edo period and, of those, 85.4% survived. The practice is now prohibited.

Beneath the main hall is the Otowa waterfall, where three channels of water fall into a pond. Visitors can catch and drink the water, which is believed to have wish-granting powers.

The temple complex includes several other shrines, among them the Jishu Shrine, dedicated to Ōkuninushi, a god of love and “good matches”. Jishu Shrine possesses a pair of “love stones” placed 18 meters apart, which lonely visitors can try to walk between with their eyes closed. Success in reaching the other stone with their eyes closed implies that the pilgrim will find love, or true love. One can be assisted in the crossing, but this is taken to mean that a go-between will be needed. The person’s romantic interest can assist them as well.

The complex also offers various talismans, incense, and omikuji (paper fortunes). The site is particularly popular during festivals (especially at New Year’s and during obon in the summer) when additional booths fill the grounds selling traditional holiday foodstuffs and souvenirs to throngs of visitors.

In 2007, Kiyomizu-dera was one of 21 finalists for the New Seven Wonders of the World. However, it was not picked as one of the seven winning sites.

Kiyomizu-dera, Kyoto - History

Photo= "Kiyomizu-dera Heisei Engi Emaki" is unveiled to the public (April 6, Kiyomizu-dera Temple, Higashiyama Ward, Kyoto)

"Kiyomizu-dera Heisei Engi Emaki," or colorful picture scroll on silk depicting the 1,200-year history of Kiyomizu-dera Temple, in Higashiyama Ward, Kyoto, has been completed and made public at the temple from April 6. This lengthy picture scroll painted vividly with natural mineral pigments took ten years to complete. It will be publicly exhibited from April 25 to May 13. A fee will be charged.

The picture scroll consists of nine volumes. Its total length is approximately 65 meters with a width of about 35 centimeters. This is a picture scroll following up the colorful picture scroll on paper, "Legends about the origin of Kiyomizu-dera Temple, emaki," an Important Cultural Property possessed by the Tokyo National Museum, which was produced in the Muromachi Period. This scroll was painted and dedicated by Mutsumasa Hakozaki, a Japanese-style painter in Uji City, Kyoto Prefecture, for the 33rd anniversary of the death of Ryokei Onishi, former chief priest of the temple, and for the 100th anniversary of a sermon in the Urabon-e festival, which is also known as the lecture at dawn.

The picture scroll history starts with a scene of the temple's foundation in the Nara Period, and elaborately represents its repeatedly suffering from fires due to wars such as the Onin War and others. It also depicts how it appeared in Kabuki and Joruri, or ballad dramas, in the Edo Period. Events after the Meiji Era, such as the chief priest Ryokei who revived the temple and the ongoing large-scale renovation in the precincts, are included as well.

In the morning of April 6, a Buddhist ceremony was held by monks at the main hall to report the completion of the picture scroll to the Eleven Headed and Thousand Armed Kannon Bodhisattva, the temple's principal image. Seihan Mori, chief priest, said, "Creating the picture scroll had been our long cherished wish. We want to pass it on to future generations as a temple treasure."

Hours & Admission

The temple is open every day from 6:00 am to 6:00 pm from October till April and from 6:00 am to 6:30 pm from April to September. The admission costs 400 yen. During the Spring and Fall, they have a special event where they illuminate parts of the temple with lights. During this festival, the temple is open from 6:00 pm to 9:00 pm and costs an additional 400 yen to enter to see the spectacle.

Gion, Kawaramachi, Kiyomizu-dera Temple:Access

Access from Kansai International Airport to Gion area

From Kansai Airport Station, take the JR Kanku Rapid Service bound for Tenno-ji, ride for 79 minutes, and then get off at Kyobashi Station. Transfer to the Keihan Main Line Limited Express bound for Demachiyanagi, ride for 41 minutes, and then get off at Gion-shijo Station.

Access from Osaka International Airport to Kawaramachi

From Osaka Airport Station, take the Osaka Monorail bound for Kadoma-shi, ride for 24 minutes, and then get off at Minami-ibaraki Station. Transfer to the Hankyu Kyoto Line bound for Kawaramachi (Kyoto), ride for about 30 minutes, and then get off at Kawaramachi Station.

Access from Osaka Station to Kawaramachi

From JR Osaka Station, walk to Hankyu Umeda Station, take the Hankyu Kyoto Line Limited Express bound for Kawaramachi (Kyoto), ride for 43 minutes, and then get off at Kawaramachi Station.

The other things to see in Kiyomizu-dera temple

Jisyu Srine 地主神社

In the area of Kiyomizu-dera temple, there is a Shinto shrine named Jisyu shrine. By the early 17th century, the Shinto and the Buddhism is fused and it is not strange there is a Shinto shrine is in the area of a Buddhisit temple. Jisyu shrine is a Chinsyu sya, a Shinto shrine which saves a Buddhist temple.

In Jisyu Shrine, Ohkuninushi no mikoto, the Shinto Deity, is enshrined. In the fusion of the Shinto and the Buddhism, the Deities of each religion were also fused. Ohkuninushi no mikoto was fused with Daikokuten.

Jisyu Srine is famous for love-seekers because Ohkuninushi no mikoto brings us good “Goen.” Goen means “relationship”, or “tie,” i.e., he gives us a good relationship to someone we love.

There are 2 stones in the area of Jisyu shrine. It is believed that if you walked to the one to the other keeping your eyes closed, you would find a good love.

How to Get There

Kiyomizudera is accessible by bus from Kyoto Station.

From Kyoto Station , take the number 100 or 206 buses to either Gojozaka or Kiyomizu-michi bus stop. From there, it is a 10-minute walk uphill to the temple.

The only way is up

There are many ways to reach Kiyomizudera. Though the ascent is fairly steep, the journey is a key part of the experience.

Two streets, named Ninenzaka and Sannenzaka, lead to Kiyomizudera from Gion . These streets are narrow, and almost exclusively for pedestrian use.

The streets are lined with shops, many of which specialize in souvenirs or snacks. Some shops feature Kiyomizu-yaki pottery and yuba, a soy-based food that is similar to tofu. Others feature specialty items, such as wooden hairpieces used when wearing kimono and even traditional Japanese fireworks.

Alternately, from Kiyomizu-Gojo Station on the Keihan Line, you can walk up Gojozaka, a large street with narrow sidewalks. An alternative is heading slightly left from Gojozaka and ascending through the cemetery attached to the temple.

One of the best ways to visit Kiyomizudera is to go up through the cemetery and back down by Ninenzaka and Sannenzaka. But if you choose to climb up through the cemetery, remember to respect the atmosphere of this sacred space and the people laid to rest.

A bird's eye view of Kyoto

Just to the right of the main hall lies Kiyomizudera's veranda, the most famous feature of the temple. Supported by traditional wooden Japanese construction, it stands 13 meters above the ground and is built without the use of nails.

Kiyomizu-dera Temple, a must-see in Kyoto

Kiyomizu-dera is a very popular place to visit for visitors who want to discover Kyoto's history. Built on a hillside in the Higashiyama district, east of the city, it offers fantastic views of Kyoto. Since 1994 this temple has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Kiyomizu-dera, the great complex of Eastern Kyoto

The Kiyomizu-dera complex is home to both a Buddhist temple and a Shinto shrine. It was built in 780 and rebuilt in 1633 after a fire.

Visiting the Kiyomizu-dera site is particularly popular with tourists in the fall and spring. The reward after finding your way through the maze of narrow shopping streets of Gion and making ​​the difficult ascent up the hills of Higashiyama is the intense, red details of the Deva gate that provides a striking contrast with immaculate white walls.

The wonders don't stop after this first discovery, the western gate hides a three-storied pagoda spire made of forged metal. The first building, the hall Zuigu-do, is then on the left. It offers very strange experience that delves into the spiritual mindset needed to tackle the mysteries of the temple, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

With a coin and the removing of your shoes, access to the uterus of Daizuigu Bosatsu, the mother of Buddha, is open and accessible to you. In darkness, the sensory experience culminates to reveal the incredible vision of an illuminated stone allowing fulfill a vow by turning on itself. Upon leaving this "womb," visitors will likely feel beyond perplexed, but the strange Zuigu hall is interesting enough to want to get better acquainted with the other secrets of Kiyomizu-dera.

Not to be missed in the heart of Kiyomizu-dera

It is only after passing the halls of Zuigudo and Kaizando that the path to the main building appears. The buildings on the left should not be ignored, as they host a lovely garden and the building of Jojuin, often neglected by tourists but deserving of attention, if only for the green lotus flowers and roses that dot the paved roads in summer. Take note of the dragon fountain Seiryu, the origin of the Seiryuue festival in March, April and September. Once you have paid your entry fee into the temple, the show is breathtaking.

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Kiyomizudera Temple

Take the plunge at one of Kyoto's most iconic sights.

A popular stunt during the Edo period, the expression “to jump off the stage of Kiyomizu” still resonates centuries later as a Japanese euphemism for risk-taking or ‘taking the plunge’. More than 200 people risked their lives jumping off the terrace attached to the temple, believing that if they survived their wish would come true.

Since the practice is now banned you won’t get to witness plucky tourists plummeting 13 meters to their good fortune but you can still enjoy a just as dramatic skyline view of Kyoto’s cityscape and the surrounding hillsides. It’s one of the most famous scenes of Kyoto – you’ll spot it on postcards everywhere – and it’s easy to see why.

Kiyomizu-dera Temple is also known for its “power spots” dedicated to deities of love and longevity, and even to boosting your test scores.

The name Kiyomizu means “pure water”.

Start by praying at the three-tier pagoda (Koyasu Pagoda) that promises a smooth delivery for expecting mothers. Then scale up the steps behind Kiyomizu-dera’s Main Hall to Jishu Shrine (a.k.a the “Cupid of Kyoto”). Lovesick, looking for love or hoping your current love life can withstand the test of time? You can perform your own love divination by walking between a pair of love stones with your eyes shut – no peeking.

Jishu-jinja (shrine) is known as the Cupid of Kyoto for its romantic powers.

Finally, round-up your luck by taking a sip (or three) of holy water at the Otowa Waterfall, located right at the base of the wooden veranda. This wish-granting waterfall, which gives the temple its name, is divided into three streams where you line up and use long-handled cups to get a sacred swig.

The water’s wish-granting properties include a long life, success at school, and more of that lurve. But one too many sips may weigh down your luck, so drink sparingly (you don’t want to look desperate).

How To Get There


Kiyomizu 1-chome, Higashiyama Ward, Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture 605-0862, Japan

By train

Take the Keihan Railway Line to Kiyomizu-Gojo Station. Be careful as the Keihan Main Line is not accessible from Kyoto Station. The closest transfer point would be Tofukuji Station—one stop away from Kyoto Station. It’s approximately 20-25 minutes on foot from Kiyomizu-Gojo Station to the temple.

By bus

From Kyoto Station Bus Terminal, take Kyoto City Bus 206 to Kiyomizu-michi or Gojo-zaka (a 15-minute bus ride and 10-minute walk uphill to the temple).

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