We landed at Osaka Kansai International Airport on a Sunday night and took a car service to Kyoto, which is about 1,5 hours away. We checked-in at the amazing Hyatt Regency Kyoto in Higashiyama and went straight to bed, to ensure we will be full of energy for the next day packed with sightseeing.
We started with one of the most celebrated temples of Japan: Kiyomizudera (literally “Pure Water Temple”). It was founded in 798 on the site of the Otowa Waterfall in the wooded hills east of Kyoto, and derives its name from the fall’s pure waters. This Buddhist temple is one of many UNESCO world heritage sites in Kyoto. There is not a single nail used in the entire structure.
Kiyomizudera is best known for its wooden stage that juts out from its main hall, 13 meters above the hillside below. The stage affords visitors a nice view of the numerous cherry and maple trees below (which unfortunately were still bare at the time of our visit) that erupt in a sea of color in spring and fall, as well as of the city of Kyoto in the distance.
The Otowa Waterfall is located at the base of Kiyomizudera’s main hall. Its waters are divided into three separate streams, and visitors use cups attached to long poles to drink from them. Each stream’s water is said to have a different benefit, namely to cause longevity, success at school and a fortunate love life. However, drinking from all three streams is considered greedy.
We were a little bit unlucky in that nine of the buildings at Kiyomizudera are being renovated step by step over the coming years.
Currently, the Okunoin Hall, which is well known for the temple’s secondary balcony, the Amida Hall and the main hall, which houses the temple’s primary object of worship, a small statue of the eleven faced, thousand armed Kannon, are closed.
But nonetheless we had a great time exploring this vast complex, which includes a Shinto shrine that is associated with matters of the heart.
It’s said that walking with your eyes closed between the two stones, placed 18 metres apart, will mean you will find your true love. If you can successfully make your way from one to the other, that is. You can possibly be assisted, but that means you will need assistance in finding your true love in real life.
Around the entrance of Kiyomizudera, outside the paid area, stand various other temple buildings, including a vermilion three storied pagoda…
… a repository for sutras, large entrance gates and the Zuigudo Hall which is dedicated to Buddha’s mother. Unfortunately we missed one of the fun things to do at Kiyomizudera: In the Zuigudo Hall, against a small entrance fee, you can wander the pitch black basement that symbolizes a mother’s womb.
- Kiyomizudera can be reached from Kyoto Station by bus number 100 or 206. Get off at Gojo-zaka or Kiyomizu-michi bus stop, from where it is a ten minute uphill walk to the temple
- The temple is open from 6am to 6pm and has no closing days
- Admission is 300 Yen – but make sure to pay the extra 100 Yen to visit the Tanai-Meguri (that’s before you enter the main temple grounds) By entering the hall you are figuratively entering the womb of a female Bodhisattva, who has the power to grant any human wish
- During the cherry blossom and autumn foliage season Kiyomizudera holds evening ‘light ups’ when the trees and buildings are illuminated