Intro: Out of all the famous and almost countless temples in Kyoto, I think that Kiyomizu temple is without a doubt the most spectacular and unique. Kiyomizu temple is like a temple in the clouds guarding over the city. Close to the hearts of locals, an unbeatable position perched in the eastern mountains at the centre of Kyoto’s best preserved historical area, attractive in all seasons, architecturally and aesthetically stunning, and one of the oldest temples in the city. It is no wonder that Kiyomizu was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and was Japan’s candidate for a new 7 wonders of the world list in 2006.
Specifics: Meaning ‘pure water’, Kiyomizu temple has three streams to drink from. The first of these is for good fortune in health, second for longevity, and the third for study. The temple was established before the city itself, in the 8th century, though the present buildings are from the early 17th century. The central figure of worship is ‘Kannon-san’ (bodhisattva of mercy and salvation), of which there is a famous 11 headed statue. As well as this, the Main Hall with its massive wooden stage looking across the city is the central attraction. This stage is supported by 12 meter high pillars, and is made up of over 400 massive boards without the use of nails. In Japan to ‘jump from the stage of Kiyomizu’ means to take the plunge, but this is one plunge that you do not want to take literally! Though most temples were segregated from shrines about 100 years ago, Kiyomizu is interesting in that it retains the old style by also including a number of shrines. Primary amongst these is Jishu Shrine, where you can pray to the god of love and match-making. You can also enter the Tainai-meguri and follow a pitch-black trail underground into the womb of a bodhisattva! One of the most interesting events is Seiryue, held in March, April and September, where a beautifully crafted and life-like dragon winds its way in and out of the temple and the shops leading up to the temple gate.
Transport and the area: There are buses to Kiyomizu temple from Kyoto station and other places in town, or it is a long but pleasant walk up from Gojo Keihan station. Some of the best shopping for traditional items can be done in Kyoto, including the famous Kiyomizu pottery, which is made in this area. In addition, Yasuka Shrine, Maruyama park, Chion-in and Kodaiji temple, can also be easily visited as part of such sightseeing. As such, it is best to take at least half a day or a day to see the temple and the shops, shrines, other temples and historical attractions of the area.
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