{Japan Travel Diary 2015} The Kiyomizu-dera takes centre stage

Kiyomizu Temple (or Kiyomizu-dera as I am more used to calling it) is one of the most popular temples in Kyoto. In fact, you can immediately tell the moment you step into the temple grounds. People… People everywhere! It starts when you enter the Deva gate up until you exit to the streets on the hillside of the Higashiyama District.

This temple was built back in the year 778 in honour of the Kannon Goddess of Mercy, but having been burned down many times since then, it was rebuilt around the Edo period (1600’s). Currently, it is one of the most visited temples in all of Japan.

Below is the three-storey pagoda which you will see on your way to the Hondo or Main Hall. The colours of the structures in this area are a bright red, contrasting to the dark brown cypress colour of the Main Temple itself. I think the colours are rather stunning.

There were areas of the temple that were under reconstruction so if you don’t see it here, that’s probably the reason! Thankfully the main and most important hall was still open when we visited. I did read that they’re planning to close it for repairs as well some time in the future, though I was not sure when. In any case, the Main Hall was where most of the people were gathered about since this is also where the statue of the Goddess of Mercy is housed.

Standing on the Main Hall itself, you can clearly see the 3-storey Koyasu Pagoda in the distance. This pagoda is still within the temple grounds and is typically visited by pregnant women for easy and safe childbirth.

Can you just imagine how beautiful the view would be from here during the peak of cherry blossom season? I find that I’m more intrigued to see the autumn colours though. I’m more drawn to strong vibrant colours, though of course a sea of cherry blossoms will make anyone fall in love.

This is the postcard shot of Kiyomizu-dera, as the temple is really known for its gigantic wooden stage connected to its main hall.

This whole structure was built without nails, similar to Atsuta Shrine in Nagoya. During the Edo period, people actually jumped off this stage into the 13-meter drop below believing the superstition that surviving it would grant a wish! Crazy! Now of course you’re not allowed to do that.

More than the view of the garden from the Main Hall, I really like this view with the main hall itself in the shot better. It’s one of my goals to come here during autumn as I’ve seen pictures of how stunning it can get. Luckily when we came here the sun was cooperating for minutes at a time. Between casting a gloom over the city, it allowed trickles of golden light that allowed me some really nice photographs.

Taking the stairs down from the main hall, you will see the Otowa Waterfall with its three small streams. This is actually where Kiyomizu-dera got its namesake, as the words actually mean “Clear Water Temple” [清水寺].

My mother came down here early on to fill up her small thermos with the “blessed water” from these falls, but she can’t remember which stream she got it from. My family all had a little sip of the cool water, and I have to wonder if I was drinking from the stream of longevity, the stream of intellectual success, or the stream that brings luck in love.

Upon exiting the temple, you will get to travel down the steep pathway at Higashiyama lined with a gazillion shops. We barely had time to do anything but grab a matcha soft-serve, which is a must when in Kyoto. In case you didn’t know, Kyoto is supposedly the matcha capital of Japan. These soft serves were a testament. I only wish we had more time to explore the area on our own. I would’ve really liked to, despite how busy it is, in the name of matcha treats!

It is unfortunate that this was the only taste of Kyoto we had on this trip. Kyoto is on the top of my list of places to explore in Japan, and it’s likely that I’ll come back here even if I have to spend a whole week just wandering through Kyoto and its old streets. It’ll be worth it.

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