Kiyomizu-dera

Kiyomizu-dera (清水寺), known more fully as Otowa-san Kiyomizu-dera (音羽山清水寺) is an independent Buddhist temple in eastern Kyoto. The temple is part of the Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto (Kyoto, Uji and Otsu Cities) UNESCO World Heritage site. (It should not be confused with Kiyomizu-dera in Yasugi, Shimane, which is part of the 33-temple route of the Chūgoku 33 Kannon Pilgrimage through western Japan.)

Origin and history

Kiyomizu-dera was founded in the early Heian period. The temple dates back to 798, and its present buildings were constructed in 1633, during a restoration ordered by the Tokugawa Iemitsu. Not one nail is used in the whole temple. It takes its name from the waterfall within the complex, which runs off the nearby hills. Kiyomizu means clear water, or pure water.

It was originally affiliated with the old and influential Hossō sect dating from Nara times. However, in 1965 it severed that affiliation, and its present custodians call themselves members of the "Kitahossō" sect.

Present

The main hall has a large veranda, supported by tall pillars, that juts out over the hillside and offers impressive views of the city. Large verandas and main halls were constructed at many popular sites during the Edo period to accommodate large numbers of pilgrims.

The popular expression "to jump off the stage at Kiyomizu" is the Japanese equivalent of the English expression "to take the plunge". This refers to an Edo period tradition that held that, if one were to survive a 13m jump from the stage, one's wish would be granted. Two hundred thirty-four jumps were recorded in the Edo period and, of those, 85.4% survived. The practice is now prohibited.

Beneath the main hall is the Otowa waterfall, where three channels of water fall into a pond. Visitors can catch and drink the waters, which is believed to have therapeutic properties. Drinking the water of the three streams is said to confer wisdom, health, and longevity. However, some Japanese believe that you must choose only two; if you are greedy and drink from all three, you invite misfortune upon yourself.

The temple complex includes several other shrines, among them the Jishu Shrine, dedicated to Ōkuninushi, a god of love and "good matches". Jishu Shrine possesses a pair of "love stones" placed 18 meters apart, which lonely visitors can try to walk between with their eyes closed. Success in reaching the other stone with their eyes closed implies that the pilgrim will find love, or true love. One can be assisted in the crossing, but this is taken to mean that a go-between will be needed. The person's romantic interest can assist them as well.

The complex also offers various talismans, incense, and omikuji (paper fortunes). The site is particularly popular during festivals (especially at New Year's and during obon in the summer) when additional booths fill the grounds selling traditional holiday foodstuffs and souvenirs to throngs of visitors.

In 2007, Kiyomizu-dera was one of 21 finalists for the New Seven Wonders of the World. However, it was not picked as one of the seven winning sites.

Notes

References

  • Graham, Patricia J. (2007) Faith and Power in Japanese Buddhist Art (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press) ISBN 978-0-8248-3126-4.
  • Ponsonby-Fane, Richard Arthur Brabazon. (1956) Kyoto: The Old Capital of Japan, 794-1869. Kyoto: The Ponsonby Memorial Society.

External links

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Joshua Peters
29 September 2017
Very crowded so arrive early, and 11am is not early. Beautiful temple that is partly under construction, but the walk up plus the adjoining temples make this a must see.
Clau????
21 November 2012
Visit this temple as early as you can in the morning to avoid some crowds. Go to the golden Budda and make an offer, write your wish on the wood stick and deposit it in the wooden box.
Simple Discoveries
8 April 2016
This is a must-see in #Kyoto especially at sunset, but it's only open then 3x a year - so check listings. Sweeping views of the city with brilliant temple lighting. Entry fee of ~400¥.
Yohan Gabriel Liutama
27 November 2017
Beautiful temple to be. Best to come early or you will have difficulty catching those wonderful photos. Only ¥400 per pax. Oh and get your hands on those mochies and matcha-chestnut ice creams!
Kit&kafoodle
1 May 2017
My favourite temple in Kyoto, maybe even Japan. Currently undergoing restoration so the beautiful photo worthy shot is a bit marred, still a lovely walk with scenery, temples and shopping strip.
Sofia Papastamelos
10 April 2018
The views here were breathtaking on the sunny April day we were here. Even with the roof under construction it’s worth walking around and enjoying the structure and nature.
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