Kiyomizu Temple, Kyoto

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  • Kiyomizu Temple
    by Ewingjr98
  • Kiyomizu Temple
    by Ewingjr98
  • Kiyomizu Temple
    by Ewingjr98
  • toonsarah's Profile Photo

    Kiyomizu-dera Temple: Hondo

    by toonsarah Updated Dec 19, 2013

    3.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    The veranda
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    This Buddhist temple is possibly the most visited in Kyoto – it is certainly up there in the top five. And it’s easy to see why it draws the crowds. It has a lovely hillside setting with views of the town and several other nearby pagodas and temples. It is near enough the centre of town and those other temples to be easily accessible. And it has a unique feature – a sort of platform or veranda that juts out on one side of the main hall, 13 metres above the hillside below. Both hall and stage, and indeed all the buildings here, were built without the use of nails, an amazing achievement. They date from 1633, though the temple was founded much earlier, in 778. Since that foundation, the temple had burned down many times, and thus most of the current buildings were rebuilt by the third Shogun Tokugawa Iemitsu in the early Edo period. In 1994, the temple was added to the list of UNESCO world heritage sites.

    The temple opens at 6.00 am so if you want to avoid the crowds you could aim to get here early. We had arrived that morning on the train from Osaka so by the time we got here (about 11.00 am I reckon) it was packed, but the crowds, who were mostly Japanese tourists and worshippers, didn’t detract from our enjoyment at all. Indeed, I enjoyed watching the many girls who had dressed in kimono for the occasion, and it was interesting to observe the rituals of washing in the fountain (photo four) and burning incense, the smell of which wafted on the air and lent atmosphere to the temple complex. Closing times vary, by the way, so check the website below for details. Entry is a modest 300¥.

    The complex here is extensive (15 separate buildings) so I’m devoting two tips to it to do it justice. Let’s look first at this main hall or Hondo, and its veranda. The hall houses a small statue of the eleven-faced, thousand-armed Kannon Bodhisattva, the main object of worship here. This is only shown to the public once in 33 years, but you can see a picture on the website I’ve linked below. I found this story of the founding of the temple and the devotion to this statue:
    ” In the year 778, Priest Enchin who was inspired by divine revelation in a dream to go up Kizu-gawa river to find a fountain of pure water, travelled up to a waterfall in the foot of Otowa-yama (Mt. Otowa). He met Gyoei Koji, a Buddhist recluse who had been devoted to self-discipline there, and was given a block of sacred wood. Enchin carved a statue of a Buddhist deity Kannon Bosatsu out of the block and enshrined it in the thatched hut which Gyoei had been living till then. Two years later, a military general, Sakanoue no Tamuramaro, came up into the mountain and met Enchin who lectured for him on the merciful teaching of Kannon Bosatsu. Tamuramaro became a pious devotee to the Kannon and he dedicated a hall to the statue. This is said to be the origin of this temple. The name of the temple, "Kiyomizu", literally means "pure water" and came from the above story.”

    Turning back to the veranda, you can get wonderful views from here of the city of Kyoto and of your more immediate surroundings. My second photo, of a nearby pagoda, was taken from here. The veranda is known as the Kiyomizu Stage; it is supported by huge 12-metre high pillars made from Japanese Zelkova trees, were assembled without using a single nail, and its floor consists of over 410 cypress boards.

    So famous is this veranda that it has given rise to a well-known Japanese saying, "To jump off the veranda of Kiyomizu-dera", which has the same meaning as the English saying, “To take the plunge”, i.e. to take a risk.

    To get the best views of the veranda and its amazing construction, take the path above and to the right of the main hall. This leads past a couple of other halls that when we were there (October 2013) were undergoing major preservation work and were hidden beneath scaffolding and wraps. From this path you can look back at the rest of the complex and see the veranda jutting out over the hillside. You can either follow the path some distance until it turns back on itself and descends to a small group of buildings below the main hall, or (as we did) retrace your steps and take a stone staircase down to that level. Let us go there now to explore the rest of the Kiyomizu-dera complex.

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  • toonsarah's Profile Photo

    Exploring Kiyomizu-dera

    by toonsarah Updated Dec 18, 2013

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    Nio-mon
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    There is a lot more to see at Kiyomizu-dera than just the main hall and veranda, and we explored several other parts of the complex both before and after visiting those.

    The first of these was Tainai-meguri. We spotted a small crowd around this building, which lies to the left of the pagoda just beyond the main gate, and went over to investigate. A man was selling tickets, or rather, exchanging them for a “suggested donation” of 100¥, which we were happy to make though we had no idea what we were paying for at that point. We were then asked to remove our shoes and given a plastic bag each in which to carry them as we entered the shrine. We were instructed to hold on to the rope handrail as we entered, and soon realised why. The path through the shrine is constructed in such a way that after a few steps you are plunged into total darkness, unable to see even an inch in front of you. The idea is that this represents the womb of a female bodhi¬sattva, so you are returning to a pre-birth state. At the heart of the shrine a little light falls on a large stone, which you spin and make a wish before ascending through more darkness until you emerge, blinking, into the bright light of day.

    No photos are allowed, or possible, inside Tainai-meguri, but no matter – there were wonderful photo opportunities all around us. There was the stunning main gate known as Nio-mon, the three-storied pagoda and numerous other structures that surround the main temple hall. You can see some of these in my photos here, and more in my travelogue. Just north of the main hall is a Shinto shrine (which we didn’t find time to explore), marked by a Torii gate (photo four).

    One area especially worth exploring is beyond the main hall and to your right. Here a winding path leads past several small refreshment booths and past the water fountain that gives Kiyomizu-dera its name, the meaning of which is “clear water temple”. This is channelled from the Otowa Waterfall which falls from the mountain of the same name. There are three separate fountains dropping into the pool below (see photo five). Drinking the water is believed to bestow special powers, and each fountain gives a different one – a long life, success in your career or in love. It is considered greedy to drink from all three!

    Another path worth following is the one that runs below the veranda, as from here you can best appreciate its scale and you can also see some jizo statues brought here from elsewhere in Japan I believe. There’s a photo of a couple of these in my travelogue and an explanation of these in a tip on my Tokyo page.

    It was while walking along here that we bumped into another member of our group, Phil, and decided to stop for a snack.

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  • Ewingjr98's Profile Photo

    Kiyomizu-dera Temple - Higashiyama

    by Ewingjr98 Updated Oct 18, 2013

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    Kiyomizu means "pure water," and the temple is named after a stream and waterfall nearby. This ancient temple, located on Otawa Mountain in eastern Kyoto was established in 778. Due to fire and conflict, most of the temples were destroyed, but reconstructed in the early 1630s. In 1994 Kiyomizu-dera was named as part of the Kyoto UNESCO World Heritage Site.

    The temple is a good hike uphill from the other parts of Higashiyama and the two nearby subway stations, but the views over Kyoto make the walk worth it.

    Admission is 300 yen for adults.

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  • nexusangel's Profile Photo

    Best Temple in Kyoto

    by nexusangel Updated Jun 30, 2013

    Perched on Higashiyama, it commands a gorgeous view of Kyoto city below.

    From the main street, there is a short walk before you reach the Omotesando street (the typical street of shops that leads to temples in Japan). Lots of souvenirs and snacks can be found here. Touristy but still a great atmosphere.

    At the end of the Omotesando is the temple, entrance fee is 300yen except for the Spring or Autumn light up where it is 400yen (18:30 to 21:30, during Koyo (red leaves) or Sakura season).

    The temple complex is huge, and does not consist only of the main temple. There are trails that surround the temple area and are really great for a nice walk.
    Rough idea of the complex can be seen here http://www.kiyomizudera.or.jp/info/img/map.jpg

    The main attraction of the temple is actually the wooden stage that sticks right out on the hill side. It overlooks most of the temple grounds and Kyoto city.
    Along one of the trails that leads to the waterfall there is a udon shop where you can stop for matcha with wagashi, udon or yuu-tofu.

    At Otowa waterfall, there are 3 streams that you can drink from (using a metal cup on the end of a long stick), for longevity, to do well in school or for some luck in your lovelife. On weekends there is usually a long snaking queue of japanese who would like a bit of blessing in one of the 3 areas. (No one drinks from all 3, as it is considered to be greedy).

    Avoid Weekends and japanese public holidays (like Golden week) as much as possible as the crowds can be really dense.
    Might be challenging for the elderly to walk up the slope to the temple, and the temple is not wheel-chair accessible.

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  • jlanza29's Profile Photo

    Magical ..... breathtaking .....

    by jlanza29 Written May 4, 2012

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    Walk up to the main entrance .....
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    Kiyomizu-dera Temple is perhaps the most beloved of Kyoto's temples and is a fixture in the minds of the Japanese people. The temple's veranda juts out of the side of a mountain supported by 13-meter-high wooden columns. The main hall with its distinctive hip-shaped roof of cypress bark rests to the rear of the veranda and houses within it a priceless statue of Kannon Bodhisattva, the goddess of mercy. From the veranda, one can appreciate fine views facing west over the city of Kyoto. This is an auspicious place to watch the sunset, which may also explain the romantic associations accorded to the temple.

    Several other buildings designated as "national treasures" dot the grounds, as do waterfalls and landmarks which have entered popular lore. Thus people come to the temple to drink water from the falls by collecting it in tin cups; the water is said to have therapeutic properties, and drinking from the three different streams is said to confer health, longevity, and success in studies.

    There is also a shrine on the grounds, and praying there is said to help one succeed in finding an appropriate love match. People desirous of a romantic partner can be seen walking between two prominent stones with their eyes closed. If one can make the journey alone, this is taken as a sign that the pilgrim will find love. Those who need assistance in making the crossing will require an intermediary to help them find their mate.

    The temple is very popular with visitors and has something of a festival atmosphere. Vendors abound who sell talismans, incense, and "omikuji" (paper fortunes). Serious pilgrims come to pray, young people come looking for good fortune in love, visitors come to see the sights, and all fall under the spell of Kyoto's timeless temple.

    Give yourself a couple of hours, the walk up the main street is one of the greatest streets in all of Kyoto lined with shops and GREEN TEA ICE CREAM SHOPS !!!!! A must do in Kyoto ..... Admission price was 300 yens .....

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  • hebaemam's Profile Photo

    one of the best temples in japan

    by hebaemam Written Feb 7, 2012

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    I really loved the short visit I made to this place. i like the atmosphere of this narrow streets with souvenirs shops along your way up the hill to the temple.
    the temple is realllllly huge and you will definetly enjoy your pics later.
    shops closes early, parking is very expensive around 800 en, so better find a way rather than a car to go there.
    the temple its self around 400 en per person. read more about it in here: http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e3901.html

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  • Rabbityama's Profile Photo

    Kiyomizu Temple

    by Rabbityama Updated Nov 3, 2010

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    Kiyomizu Temple
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    Kiyomizu Temple is one of the most famous sites in the nation! It is one of the city's World Heritage Sites and was a candidate to be one of the New Seven Wonders of the World.

    The temple you see today dates back to 1633, although the original was built during the Heian Period. It is famed for its slanted floor, which extends outward over the area below. People once jumped off this platform in hopes of making their wishes come true. Those who survived the jump were said to have their wishes granted and those who died... Well, that probably wasn't their wish!

    Another fun feature of the temple is the Otowa Waterfall below the temple. It's actually just three fountains, but each fountain has the power to grant you wisdom, good health, and longevity when you drink from them. You can only choose one, though. Drinking from more than one brings bad fortune as a punishment for greed!

    It is said that you must visit during each of the four seasons to fully appreciate it. I don't know if that's true (nice marketing strategy though!), but it is definitely built for the seasons, with blossoms in the spring and foliage in the fall. No matter when you come, Kiyomizu Temple is always impressive!

    Entrance is 300 yen.

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  • xaver's Profile Photo

    The best temple in Kyoto

    by xaver Written Oct 11, 2009

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    Kiyomizu temple
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    I got to see for the first time this temple in the movie "Wasabi" and, since then I was very curious to visit it.
    In my opinion it's definitly the best temple I visited in the city. It's a Buddist temple located just out of the town on a hill that gives really a great view. It's surrounded by trees.
    The temple contains buildings from the 15th to 17th centuries, the main partl (Hondo), is popular for its beautiful background scenery which changes with the four seasons.

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  • muratkorman's Profile Photo

    Pure Water Temple

    by muratkorman Updated Sep 25, 2009
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    Kiyomizudera was built in 780 and it is associated with one of the oldest sects within Japanese Buddhism : Hosso Sect. The temple was added to the list of UNESCO world heritage sites in 1994. The temple is located on the hills of eastern Kyoto. The location provides a fantastic view over the city from the famous wooden terrace of the temple. The name of the temple comes from the spring water which you can taste below the terrace. Kiyomizudera is open everyday from 6 am to 6 pm. The admission fee is 300 JPY.

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  • dancinbudgie's Profile Photo

    Kiyomizu-Dera

    by dancinbudgie Written Aug 16, 2009

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    Otowa-no-taki
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    This is one of the most popular sights in Kyoto. The walk up to the temple is great just on its own...the street is lined with little shops selling all kinds of souveneirs, from yukata to pottery, fans and food. The temple complex itself is huge...you could easily spend a morning or afternoon here. The main hall has a verandah which is held up by enourmous wooden pillars...a bit creepy for me (scared of heights) but fabulous for the views over Kyoto!
    Underneath the verandah is Otawa-no-taki spring, where drinking the waters is said to be theraputic and will also improve school results (that explains all the kids splashing around)!
    North of the main hall is Jishu-jinja, a love shrine, where walking between the blind stones with your eyes shut will guarantee your luck in love.

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  • bladedragon's Profile Photo

    Kiyomizudera

    by bladedragon Updated Jun 29, 2009

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    Kiyomizudera
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    There's not a single nail is used for building Kiyomizudera (Pure Water Temple, dera/tera means temple in Japanese).
    It takes its name from the waterfall within the complex, which runs off the nearby hills.
    This temple is also listed under UNESCO World Heritage site and was one of the New 7 Wonders of the World Finalists 2007.

    At the top of the temple, there's Jinsu Shrine dedicated to Okuninushi, a god of love.
    It has this pair of "love stones" placed 18 meters apart. It is said that if you can walk from one stone to another stone on the other side with your eyes closed, then your search for your true love will soon end.

    The temple ground is so big, it took us some 2 hours to explore Kiyomizydera, and honestly I don't think it's enough.

    Admission fee ¥ 300

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    Kiyomizu Temple

    by efoo Written Jan 20, 2009

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    Magnificent View of the Temple
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    The must go shrine – Kiyomizu Temple. Magnificent and spectacular design. Along the path up, souvenir and local delights can be purchased. Kiyomizu-dera Temple was built by Sakanoue Tamuramaro (758-811),a military commander and Enchin monk, and is one of the best sightseeing places in Kyoto. Among its many interesting features, the most famous is the "Kiyomizu-no-butai (main hall's wooden veranda)". It is supported by 139 pillars and built as though projected on to the mountain slope.

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  • SatunNainen's Profile Photo

    Kiyomizu-dera temple area

    by SatunNainen Written Jan 3, 2009

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    You can easily use few hours by wondering around this temple area. As a very popular place be aware that there will be lots of other tourists too, so plan enough time to visit this place.
    Before entering the temple area there are plenty of stalls that sell local handcrafts, presents and other staff.
    Wonderful place to take beautiful pictures.

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    Support the Daruma Children for Cambodia

    by joiwatani Updated Dec 6, 2008

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    At the end of our walk and visit at the Kiyumizadara Temple, there are children asking for money to support the children of Cambodia!

    I spoke with some of the Cambodian children and they said that the money we give them is in support of the children orphanage. The spokes person was very shy and I think she was embarrassed. I gave them my few dollars and some coins left in my pocket. I asked her if it was okay to take some pictures of them and she said okay but she didn't like to show her face. She bowed down the whole time I was taking the picture. I left her alone at that point but asked her if she could give me more information about their cause. She gave me a pamphlet to read. Their cause is legal and being supported by a lot of organizations in Japan.

    If you wanted to give them support directly, here's there address:

    Daruma Children Support 21 in Cambodia
    Korkranch Village
    Siem Reap Town
    Kingdom of Cambodia
    Tel/FAx (855) 063-760642
    H/P Uchida (855) 012-366580
    H/P Sorika (855) 012-930682

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  • joiwatani's Profile Photo

    Go inside the womb of the Buddha!!!

    by joiwatani Written Nov 12, 2008

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    %cgWhere the Buddha's womb is%c*
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    Outside one of the structures of the Kiyumizadara Temple, there are some older Japanese selling some stuff at the counter and we asked. We were told that for $8.00, we can go down inside the temple and see the womb of the Buddha. We were also told to make a wish when we see the light. We were also told that our wishes will be granted.

    Having a lot of wishes - like getting a better job when I get back to the United States and my sister praying that her husband's visa to go back to Japan will be approved, we, including my other sister, went down the temple.

    We were warned to hold on to the beads on the stairway. So, we held each others's shoulders and proceeded downwards on a stairway holding the beads. It was totally dark inside. You can't see a thing! Some of the Japanese girls behind us were screaming: "I am scared! I am scared!" and "It's dark! It's dark!" I held on to the beads downwards while I was holding another tourist infront of me. I am not sure whether the person infront of me was an older woman or a younger one. I just held on to her tightly as it was totally dark. I can't see a thing. Then after so many steps on the stairs, the voice said that in the old days, this is how the people came to the temple to pray. They can't really see a thing. Then the voice said that we are nearing to the womb. Then the voice said that we have to put our right hand on the stone when it appears and make a wish. The light appeared. I can see a hole in a huge stone. I saw the person in front of me. She put her hand on the hole. I imitated her and made a wish. Then holding on to the same beads, we were going upstairs in still total darkness...

    I just experienced going inside the womb of the Buddha! I made my wish but up to now my wish is still not granted. I wondered if I followed the directions correctly or maybe, Buddha didn't fulfill my wish!!! Yet.

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