Kiyomizu Dera, Kyoto
Kiyomizu Dera is one of the largest and oldest temples in Kyoto. The temple was founded in 778 on top of a hill overlooking the city. The buildings that are currently standing were created in the early 1630s and were made without using a single nail. The temple is famous for clean, wish granting water as well as the trees surrounding the temple. Depending on the season, the trees give the temple a completely different look, which makes the temple worth coming back to.
Kiyomizu Dera History
Kiyomizu Dera, as previously stated, was founded in 798 during the Heian Period. The main structures that are still standing today were not built until the early 1630s and not a single nail was used in the construction. The name “Kiyomizu Dera,” or clean water temple, was given to the temple from the waterfall within the complex. The water is not just pure, but rumored to even grant wishes. The temple has remained an important spiritual building throughout Japan’s history and became a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1994.
Kiyomizu Dera Attractions
Kiyomizu Dera is a large temple with a quite a few historic buildings to appreciate. There may be no better place to start your temple experience than the entrance. The entrance or Deva Gate is a giant orange gate that holds two enormous guardian statues. Next to the gate is a beautiful Bell Tower and the Three Story Pagoda. The pagoda is stunning and stands out against the brown and green theme of the temple complex.
Next make your way to the Kiyomizu Dera Hall. This is the main section of the temple complex and offers some great views as well as a look into the spiritual history of Japan. There are dozens of artifacts to check out or even an area to pray if you are so inclined. The main hall also has a strength test where people team up in an attempt to lift up a heavy pole. If able, it is said that the lifters will have good luck. The hall is massive, so take your time, be respectful, and enjoy the environment that the temple creates.
Once finished with the hall, continue walking through the complex and enjoy the views from the opposite side. There is a designated picture taking stage that will be full of tourists taking pictures, but it is the most picturesque view of the complex. Once finished with pictures, walk down the stairs and get in line at the Otowa Waterfall. Here you can drink a cup of pure water straight from Kiyomizu Dera. The water is said to grant wishes, so it could be well worth getting in line for. If nothing else, it is a very interesting little tradition that this temple has, and worth taking note of as you exit the temple.
As you are leaving the complex you will pass through a market street. The street carries everything from souvenirs to snacks, so be sure to load up. This is easily the best place in Kyoto to pick up souvenirs, but the snacks are sold everywhere in Kyoto so don’t feel rushed into buying them here. What you can do is take your time, appreciate the scenery, and load up on samples so you know what you will want to buy later. There are also tons of snack booths with cream puffs, ice cream, and potato tornadoes. The area is also a common spot for people to walk around in traditional kimonos.
If you have free time in the night, it may be worth coming back to Kiyomizu Dera and seeing the temple in lights. The temple lights up its main buildings, and even shoots a powerful beam into the heart of the city. The main stage also offers a great view of the city in all its lights. If you come during peak cherry blossom season (Early April), you can even see all the cherry blossom trees lit up. The lights really change the feel of the temple and make it worth coming back to, no matter how tired you are from the day’s tour.
What You Need To Know
- Admission: Day: 300 Yen, Night: 400 Yen
- Hours: Normal Hours: 6:00 – 18:00, Spring and Fall Illuminations 18:30 – 21:30
- Directions: From Kyoto Station, take bus Number 100 or 206 for 15 minutes. Get off at Kiyomizu Michi and walk ten minutes up the hill until you reach the market street.
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