Kiyomizudera Temple in Kyoto an Exploration Guide

The Kiyomizudera Temple in Kyoto is a protected UNESCO world heritage site that was built in 780 as a Buddhist temple.

The ‘Temple of the Pure Water Spring,’ also known as Kiyomizu-dera, is a Buddhist temple in Kyoto, Japan. The location is known for its magnificent observation platform, three-story Koyasu pagoda, and the Otowa Spring’s waters that are believed to be therapeutic.

Some of the most beautiful places to visit when on a trip to Japan are the temples. Here not only will you get an appreciation for the religion of Buddhism but you will also be able to appreciate the culture, traditions, and even the architecture.

Although you will certainly be stunned at first glance, knowing a little more about the history behind the temple will better your experience. It was once a place where people would often jump from the platform.

Kiyomizudera Temple

The reason for this was that it was thought that those who jumped from Kiyomizu’s stage would be able to make their dreams or wishes come true. They believed that even if they didn’t survive the jump they could even go to heaven. Many people during the Edo era, leaped from the stage because of these beliefs.

The Kiyomizudera Temple in Kyoto, not to be confused with the similar-sounding Kiyomizudera in Shimane or the  Kiyomizudera temple linked to Nichiren, a Buddhist priest.

View from Kiyomizudera Temple looking over Kyoto city skyline

This temple in Kyoto is found on the forested hills in the east area of Kyoto near the Otowa waterfall. It was originally linked to the Hosso sect but in 1965 it began its own Kita Hosso sect.

In this article, we’ll discuss the history, architecture, and uses of the Kiyomizudera temple in Kyoto to help you better appreciate the temple and its place in Japanese cultural history. 

Construction

One of the best defining features of this temple is the wooden stage that sticks out from the grand hall of the temple. This stage floats above the ground below at a height of over 30 feet.

This platform is used to view the spectacular surroundings below the temple including the cherry trees and maple trees which adorn the hillside with beautiful and bright colors when in season.

Kiyomizudera Temple in Autumn

You can even see the city of Kyoto in the distance when standing on this platform, but it is not for the faint-hearted.

Not only is this stage a fantastic addition to the temple thanks to the views that it affords visitors, but it is also a fascinating architectural point as both the platform and the main hall were constructed without a single nail but rather it makes use of Japanese joinery style of carpentry. 

Structures and points of interest on the site

Within the temple grounds, and even within the temple itself, there are a number of structures of importance. For example, one of the main objects for worship is located in the main hall and is a statue of Kannon.

Jishu Shrine

Behind the main hall, you will find a Jishu shrine dedicated to the goddess of matchmaking and love. Placed in front of this shrine, 18 meters from each other, are two stones. It is believed that you will be lucky in love if you can successfully walk from the first to the second with your eyes shut. 

The stone of love in Jishu Jinja

If you are unable to do so, the tradition has it that someone is allowed to walk you from the first stone to the second. However, this is meant to symbolize that you will need a helping hand when navigating your way through love.

Jishu Jinja Shrine

Otowa waterfall

Built on the site of the attraction, the Otowa waterfall is obviously one of the biggest and best points of interest when visiting the Kiyomizudera temple in Kyoto. The waterfall runs from the base of the main hall and there are three individual streams. 

When visiting the temple you are able to drink from all of the three streams thanks to cups attached to poles. Each stream is believed to have its own unique properties that bring you different things in life. These are fortune in love, fortune in school, and longevity.

Although you may be tempted to take a sip from all three streams this is considered a sign of greed and is frowned upon. So, choose wisely.

Halls dedicated to Buddha

There is also the Okunoin Hall on the temple site which appears to be a mini version of the main hall and even has its own, smaller, platform viewing area.

This hall is surrounded by several other halls that have been dedicated to Shaka Buddha (the historical figure) as well as Amida Buddha. 

Jizo statue hall

In addition to celebrating the Buddha, there is also a hall that is built for the protector of travelers and children, Jizo, which is home to nearly 200 stone statues. 

Koyasu pagoda

If you are looking to bring luck into your life for childbirth then a visit to the Koyasu pagoda is worth your time. This three-storied pagoda is located in the southernmost parts of the temple’s grounds and can be seen sticking out from the surrounding trees.

Around the temple grounds

Exploring the temple, its halls, and its grounds is not the only amazing sight to be had around this area. The local town nearby is also packed full of interesting restaurants and small shops that have been frequented by travelers and pilgrims for many years.

Higashiyama district shops

There are many different souvenirs for sale as well as specialties local to the region including both food and pottery items.

This is called the Higashiyama district and it spans the walkway to the temple grounds. So, if you are in for a few hours of shopping before or after your trip to the temple you will not need to venture very far.

Throughout the Hanatoro festival, in the middle of March, the grand temple and the surrounding building are lit up in a beautiful nighttime display of the area’s architecture.

Arranging your visit to the Kiuomizudera temple around this time will give you an amazing experience that you are sure not to forget.

illuminating the Togetsu Bridge and reflecting in the waters of the Katsura River during the Hanatouro night lighting event in Kyoto

Opening hours

When arranging your visit to the temple it is important that you know the opening times, closing times, and fees in advance upon arrival. The temple building is open from 6 am to 6 pm but during the weekend, holidays, and even during the summer months this is extended to 6:30 pm.

The temple grounds are never closed on any given day, so no matter what time of year that you are planning your trip you are guaranteed to be allowed access to the temple grounds.

The entry fee to the temple is 400 yen, this is also the same price during the illumination events. 

Conclusion

The Kiyomizudera temple in Kyoto is a stunning temple that beautifully showcases some of the best architecture in Japan as well as interesting construction techniques, which can be seen with the nailless flooring and platform located in the main hall. The temple grounds are just as interesting with an array of colorful trees, shrines, and statues.

The Otowa waterfall makes a point of interest in the temple grounds and can be said to being you good luck in one area of your life depending on which of its three streams that you drink from.

Points of interest and attractions via Tripadvisors

Prayer shrine at Kiyomizudera temple

There are also temples and halls dedicated to helping with childbirth and love. So, there is certainly something for everyone here to explore.

Once you have finished taking in the cultural aspect of the temple you can relax and appreciate the local town by walking down from the temple past interesting and busy shops and restaurants where you can relax and have something to eat after walking around all day or pick up interesting souvenirs for friends and family.

Kiyomizudera temple Official Website

The temple is sure to make for a very interesting trip either as a solo traveler, a family, or even a photographer. Make sure that you leave enough time to explore it all. Check out the virtual walk-thru below via Youtube:

MT Lee
My fascination with Japan began several years back at a roadside bonsai stand while on vacation. I became more interested in the where and why's more than the trees themselves. My love of Bonsai led me to further research my interest in the gardens where they originated from and the places and people that surrounded those little trees. My curiosity was well rewarded upon visiting Saitama where the National Bonsai Museum was located and Omiya Village the bonsai mecca for lovers of this ancient art form. Exploring many towns and villages and even making my way to Japan's furthest southern prefecture of Okinawa. I hope to share my love of this wonderful and exotic place with all those who want to know more about Japan.