Kiyomizu-dera, which literally means “pure water temple,” is one of the country of Japan’s most celebrated temples. Established in the year 780, the temple is situated within the wooded hills of eastern Kyoto on the grounds of the Otowa Waterfall. The temple’s name is derived from the pure waters of the waterfall. Kiyomizu-dera was associated originally with the Hosso sect, which is one of Japanese Buddhism’s oldest schools, but in 1965, formed its own Kita Hosso sect. The temple was made a UNESCO World Heritage Site in the year 1994.

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Known best for its wooden platform that extends out from the main hall, Kiyomizu-dera is situated thirteen meters above the hillside beneath it. This platform allows visitors to enjoy great views of the many maple trees and cherry trees located below that display a sea of colors during the spring and autumn seasons. Views of the rest of Kyoto can also be seen in the distance. The main hall, and the platform that juts out from it, were constructed without using any nails. The primary object of worship, which is a somewhat small statue of the thousand-armed, eleven-faced Kannon, is housed within the temple’s main hall.

Behind the main hall of Kiyomizu-dera is the Jishu Shrine, which is dedicated to the god of matchmaking and love. In front of this shrine stand two stones, situated eighteen meters apart. It’s said that those who successfully find their way with their eyes closed from one stone to the other will have luck in finding love. Visitors can have someone guide them, however, that supposedly means that someone will have to help the person in their search for love as well.

At the base of the main hall of Kiyomizu-dera is the Otowa Waterfall. The waters of the falls are separated into three different streams, and guests can drink from these streams by using cups that are attached to long poles. The waters of each stream are thought to have their own unique benefits: fortune in one’s love life, longevity, and success in education. However, it’s considered greed to drink from all three of the streams.

Additional structures on the spacious grounds of Kiyomizu-dera include the temple’s Okunoin Hall. This building bares a resemblance to the temple’s main hall, but on a smaller scale and also features a platform. Near the Okunoin Hall are several halls dedicated to the historical Buddha, Shaka Buddha, and Amida Buddha, along with a smaller hall with almost two hundred stone statues of Jizo, protector of travelers and children. Amongst the trees stand the three-storied Koyasu Pagoda at the far end of the southern part of the temple grounds.

Another fun part of a visit to Kiyomizu-dera is the walk up to the temple complex. The approach features busy and steep lanes through the Higashiyama District. Several restaurants and shops can be found within this atmospheric area, catering to pilgrims and tourists for centuries. Products offered here include everything from your standard souvenirs to local specialities to delicious food.

294 Kiyomizu 1-chome, Kyoto, Japan, Phone: 81-7-55-51-12-34

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