Kiyomizudera Temple is one of the most popular temples to visit in the heart of Kyoto. This Buddhist temple was founded on the site of the Otawa Waterfall in the wooded hills east of Kyoto, and the name ‘kiyomizu’ is in reference to the pure, clean waters of this waterfall. The most striking characteristic of this temple is the main hall which has an exceptionally large veranda, supported by tall pillars. Interesting to note, is that in the past this 13 meter tall veranda was constructed without the use of a single nail! From this veranda visitors can see an impressive view of the city, and the surrounding forests.
In my opinion the best time to visit Kiyomizudera Temple is during the spring when there is an abundance of cherry blossoms, or during fall when the leaves of the valley below the veranda erupt into fiery hues of red, orange and gold.
An interesting fact is that there was once upon a time, during the Edo period, a tradition where people would jump from the 13 meter tall veranda to the ground. It was said that if one were to survive such a plunge, one’s wish would be granted. Of the 234 recorded jumps in history, approximately 85% surived the fall. The practice is now prohibited, with good reason!
Be sure to have you cameras ready because this temple is also a great place to spot Japanese women wearing traditional kimonos in Kyoto. My mom and dad loved seeing the young girls all dolled up in their kimonos and with their hair styled, and my dad was not shy at all about asking them if he could take their picture. He simply gestured to them smiling a big friendly smile and said “Beautiful!” and they simply beemed at him very pleased at the compliment.
*A word of warning and heads up to other guys reading this blog though, the funny thing was the girls were genuinely pleased when my dad complimented them and were happy to let my dad and I take their picture, but I saw the exact same group of friendly girls afterwards completely recoil when a young man tried the same thing a minute later. I think they are nervous of perverts.*
One you’re finished exploring the balcony area, follow the path out from the balcony and you’ll see a flight of stairs that will lead you up to the Jishu Shrine. This small but cute shrine is dedicated to the deity Okuninushi, the god of love and matchmaking.
There are lots of images of rabbits around because rabbits are the messenger spirits of the god of love. If you’re willing to make a small fool of yourself, which I of course totally was, you can try your skill at finding the love stone. At first I was delighted to have spotted the stone, thinking that’s all there was too it. Trust me it’s not hard to spot, there’s a huge sign…
If only it were that easy. You see the fun lies in that there are two stones which are 6 meters apart. What will bring you luck in love is finding your way from one stone to the other with your eyes closed! It’s said that if you can do this without help you’ll find true love in your life without needing anyone else’s help, but if anyone has to help guide you from one stone to the other than an intermediary will be needed in your love life as well to meet ‘the one’. Being me, I just had to give it a shot.
It’s much harder than you think so do it in good spirits, you will probably make a huge fool of yourself like I did. In the end I did somehow manage to miraculously find the stone, but not before bumping into a couple other highly amused tourists, a shrine booth or two, listening to everyone laugh at me getting completely turned around (for the record I’m terrible with directions) and within a minute I had many people shouting ‘ganbatte‘ which is similar to ‘Good luck!’ in English. I definitely recommend doing this, it was a great experience!
If you’re interested in purchasing a cute souvenir this shrine does a booming business selling love charms.
If you back down the stairs from the Jishu Shrine, head along a small path on your left for one of the best photo opportunities of Kiyomizudera with its balcony pillars visible (like the first photo in this blog post). Once you have that shot, turn and head back the way you came once again to the area right below the Jishu Shrine. You’ll see another set of stairs leading down. Follow these down and you’ll arrive at the Otawa Waterfall area, where you’ll see 3 fountains of water falling into a pond, and most likely a very long line up.
It’s said that each streams water has a different benefit: health, success at school or good luck in love. However, only choose to drink from one or you’ll be seen as very greedy!
First step, wait in lin. When it’s your turn, choose a cup-on-a-long-stick-thingy from within the glowing decontamination cave behind.
Choose one of the three fountain streams and reach out the cup. Fill it with water and bring it back towards you.
Pour the water from your cup into your left hand and drink from that. Tada, hopefully I’ll be really healthy in my life!
After you’ve done this, feel free to wander around the temple grounds a bit more exploring the other scenic areas. After you’re finished head back down towards the bustling lanes of the atmospheric Higashiyama District. I think visiting this area is a huge part of the fun visiting Kiyomizudera Temple. The steep streets are full of great souvenir shops, green tea ice cream places, and restaurants.
Be sure to try the yatsuhashi! Yatsuhashi is one of the most famous sweets produced in Kyoto. The outside of the sweet is made out of chewy mochi, sugar and cinnamon which encases a small bit of anko (red bean paste). There are a variety of flavours such as the classic cinnamon, matcha, strawberry, chestnut, pumpkin, yuzu and even a special chocolate mochi with chocolate on the inside! The stores will be happily handing out samples the entire way down.
I also recommend popping into the Higashiyama District’s Malebranche Store so you can try one of their famous langue de chat. Often a sales lady is standing at the front of the store entrance handing out samples of this store’s most famous sweet.
This ity-bitty-little cookie will change your world. I had never had one before visiting the Malebranche Store, neither had my mother, we both took one nibble and simulataneously our eyebrows shot up! It was fabulous and oh-so-good! My mom walked away with 2 boxes they were that good!
What you ask is this langue de chat? It is 2 melt in your mouth merengue-like matcha cookies with a piece of white chocolate lovingly sandwiched in the middle. Don’t miss your chance to try one while in Kyoto, because they can only be bought in this city and nowhere else in Japan, even though Malebranche is a national chain here in Japan.
Tips For Visitors:
- *Get here as early as possible* as it is one of the absolute busiest temples in Kyoto (check out the picture below). The temple is open from 6am but you should be fine if you arrive before 8:30am.
- Make a beeline for Kiyomizudera and bypass the Higashiyama Shopping District on the way to the temple. Save shopping in the stores until after you’ve experience the temple.
- Wear comfortable shoes as the streets leading up to Kiyomizudera are some of the steepest walking tourists have to do in Kyoto.
- Also, during the spring and fall seasons an illumination event is held from 6:30pm-9:30pm for a fee of 400yen
- Names: Kiyomizudera, Kiyomizu Temple, 清水寺
- Open: 6am-6pm every day
- Entrance Fee: 300yen
How To Get To Kiyomizudera:
- By bus: From Kyoto Station take either #100 or #206 to Kiyomizu-michi bus stop (Price: 220 yen) (Check out the bus route map here) Walk 10 minutes up the hill to the temple.
- By Train: take the Keihan Railway Line to Kiyomizu-Gojo Station. Walk 20 minutes to arrive at the temple.