Yet another beauty of Kyoto was the Kiyomizu-dera Temple, ranked #3 out of over 50 things to see in Kyoto by Japan-guide.com. Trip Advisor.com also ranked it at #3 of over 300 things to see and do in Kyoto.
Kiyomizu-dera Temple was declared a world heritage site of ancient Kyoto by UNESCO in 1994. Kiyomizu-dera means “pure water” and is named after the Otowa waterfall it was built near. The waterfall is at the base of the main hall of the temple and splits into three different streams. At various stations around the temple, there are cups on strings where each streams water can be consumed by visitors. Each stream is said to bring different boosts to the drinkers, such as long life, good fortune in love or in academics.
The temple’s first installment happened in 778 when the monk Enchin enshrined an image of the godess Kannon, the god of mercy, on a mountain overlooking the Otowas-no Taki Falls. Twenty years later, Japanese general Sakanoue no Tamuramaro built a Buddha hall in the same area. The Kiyomizu-dera Temple soon became officially visited by the Emperor Kanmu and gained a reputation for its beauty and royal patronage. During many years of war, the temple was repeatedly burned down and rebuilt again. Over hundreds of years, the Kiyomizu-dera Temple has expanded and now includes many different halls and gates that surround the innermost temple.
The temple is currently one of the most popular temples in all of Japan. This is mostly because of its wooden stage that sticks out from the main hall, perched 13 meters (or 42 feet) above the hillside. Entrance to the temple grounds has no cost, but for 300 yen (approx. $3) you can walk the wooden bridge along the forest of trees and make your way to the viewing area on the stage. From there, visitors can take pictures of the garden below and see a beautiful view of Kyoto from afar. (We didn’t take the trail due to time constraints but it was extremely popular with most tourists.)
Another point of interest about this temple is the path you take coming down from the temple mountain. There are many unique shops set up along the way down, including hand-crafted pottery, sweets, teas and traditional Japanese fans. The size of the temple grounds and all of its accompanying halls and pagodas make for a long time spent in the mountain. If you plan to see more than one temple a day, I suggest you leave early as many close up around 6pm.