Officially known as the Otowa-san Kiyomizu-dera, this structure happens to be one of the most celebrated temples of Japan. The name of the temple literally translates into “pure water temple”, named after the nearby Otowa Waterfall. Home to buildings from the 15th to 17th centuries, the foundation of this temple was laid in 778, even before Kyoto became the capital of Japan. It was listed as one of the Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto on the UNESCO World Cultural Heritage List in 1994. Kiyomizudera’s architecture was subsequently imitated by other temples all over Japan.
Located halfway up the Otowa Mountain in the eastern part of Kyoto City, Kiyomizu-dera was originally associated with the Hosso sect. The Hosso sect happens to be one of the oldest schools within Japanese Buddhism. However, the temple formed its own Kita Hosso sect in 1965. The present temple complex of Kiyomizu-derawas was rebuilt in 1633 by the third Tokugawa shogun, Iemitsu. Since its foundation, the temple has been burned down many times. Today, the beauty of this temple is further enhanced by the cherry blossoms in spring and coloured leaves in autumn.
The temple is best known for its wooden stage that juts out from its main hall. It was constructed using a special method. High pillars were assembled without using a single nail. Then, the floor was installed using more than 410 cypress boards, 13 meters above the hillside below. This stage provides a magnificent view of the city below. The main hall is home to the temple’s primary object of worship, Kannon Bodhisattva, the eleven faced, thousand armed God. Kannon Bodhisattva is famous for its power of answering prayers. Beneath the main hall is the Otowa waterfall. It has been endowed with water since the temple was established and has three channels of water falling into a pond. It is believed that the water has wish-granting powers.
Kiyomizu-dera Temple opens at 6:00 in the morning but closing time varies depending on the season. From mid-March to mid-April and mid-November to early December, the temple remains open till 21:30 at night. The temple is open round the year.
How To Reach Kyoto
As far as accessing Kyoto is concerned, it is recommended that visitors touch down at Kansai International Airport in Osaka, the closest air link to the city. Other than Kansai the Itami International Airport at Osaka is also conveniently linked to Kyoto. From here, numerous rain services, private taxis and buses are available to reach Kyoto.
It is recommended that tourists use public transportation or a taxi, in order to access the temple. Kiyomizudera can be reached from Kyoto Station by bus number 100 or 206. One can get off at Kiyomizu-michi bus stop, from where the temple is a ten minute uphill. Kiyomizudera is about a 20 minute walk from Kiyomizu-Gojo Station along the Keihan Railway Line. There is no parking at the site of Kiyomizu-dera. However, private vehicles can be parked at the Kyoto City Parking. However, they may be full in high seasons so visitors should check accordingly.
To catch a glimpse of one of the aspects of Japanese history, do plan a visit to this temple, whenever in Kyoto!