Nestled in the Otowa Mountain, to the east of central Kyōto, the Buddhist temple of Kiyomizu is one of the city’s most popular attractions, attracting millions of visitors each year. The current temple buildings date from the 15th to 17th centuries, but there has been a temple here since 778.
Enter through the red and gold Deva gate, and head up a steep incline to the temple. There are two approaches you can take, each lined with stalls selling snacks, local pottery work, incense and souvenirs. The Main Hall is the prominent feature of the temple, and houses an image of the goddess of mercy, Kannon Bodhisattva.
Pilgrims have visited the temple for hundreds of years. To accommodate the pilgrims, a veranda was built on the Main Hall during the Edo period (1603-1868). Huge poles support the cedar slabs that make up the veranda. From here you have a view out to the city and over the hundreds of cherry trees planted in the temple gardens.
You can also visit Otowa-no-taki waterfall and sip the water, which is said to have special properties, giving the drinker longevity, wisdom and good health. The romantic minded can venture to the Jishu shrine, where it is said that if you walk from one rock with your eyes closed and find your way to the second, you’ll find true love. The temple grounds also feature a three-tiered pagoda and 1,000 stone Buddha statues. In the fall the gardens are lit up so that you can enjoy the fiery colors of the maples in the garden.
The temple is open daily and there is a fee to enter the complex. Take public transportation or a cab as there is no car parking on site. Buses depart from Kyōto Station, the city’s main transportation hub. It’s best to arrive early if you want to beat the crowds.