Kiyomizu-dera | Attraction Guides | History Hit

Kiyomizu-dera

Kyoto, Kinki Region, Japan

Sarah Roller

24 Nov 2020

About Kiyomizu-dera

Kiyomizu-dera is a famous UNESCO-listed Buddhist temple in Kyoto, Japan.

History of Kiyomizu-dera

The first temple of Kiyomizu-dera was founded in 780 AD during the Heian period, by the shogun, Sakanoue no Tamuramaro. Shortly afterwards, it was designated an imperial temple in 805 AD, although all that can be seen today dates back to 1633, when Tokugawa Iemitsu ordered the temple to be rebuilt. The temple was associated with the Hossō school of Buddhism, which originated in Nara, and continues to be a place of pilgrimage to this day.

The site takes its name from the waterfall around which the temple is constructed: it’s known as Otowa-no-taki and drinking the waters is said to bless you with long life and good health. The large main hall (Hondō) and open verandas were added to ensure there was enough space for pilgrims. The views are phenomenal from the verandas and it’s said that if you jump off and survive the 13m fall, your wish would be granted. During the Edo period, 234 people were recorded to have jumped, with 199 of them surviving – unsurprinsingly, the practice was outlawed in 1872.

The Jishu shrine (Jishu-jinja), visitors can try and guarantee a successful love life by 18m through two stones – miss the stone and you’re said to be doomed to be alone. Use someone else to help you find it and you’ll need assistance in finding true love.

Each part of Kiyomizudera is dedicated to a different Buddhist deity. The oldest surviving parts of Kiyomizudera date back to the seventeenth century and include the Niomon Gate and the Unatodome stable.

Kiyomizu-dera today

The temple is extremely popular today, particularly with domestic tourists so expect it to be bust – visiting early or late means you’ll avoid the worst of the crowds. Festivals are also particularly busy so check the calendar before coming. There’s plenty to buy on the road here and in the temple itself, including talismans, incense and paper fortunes.

Kiyomizu-dera’s gardens are opened seasonally and are quite something – visit them if you get the chance.

Getting to Kiyomizu-dera

The temple is in the eastern part of Kyoto, in Higashiyama ward. The closest station is Kiyomizu–dera Gojo, on the Keihan Main Line, which is roughly a 25 minute walk. The approach to the temple is a steep uphill walk, but relatively short. You could walk from anywhere in central Kyoto (allow 45 minutes to an hour) or hop in a taxi to the foot of the temple.

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