Kiyomizu-dera Temple – Kyoto, Japan

Kiyomizu-dera is a Buddhist temple in Kyoto and part of the Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto UNESCO World Heritage site. According to, “Kiyomizudera (清水寺, literally “Pure Water Temple”) is one of the most celebrated temples in Japan. It was founded in 780 AD on the site of the Otowa Waterfall in the wooded hills Kyoto and derives its name from the fall’s pure waters.”

The water fall is channeled into three streams representing long life, prosperity, and success in love. Visitors are allowed to drink from the streams; however, drinking from all three is considered greedy.

The approach to Kiyomizu-dera is spectacular and dominated by red, vibrant pagodas. A pagoda is a tiered tower with multiple eaves common throughout Asia. Most have a religious function most commonly associated with Buddhism.

The three-story pagoda at Kiyomizu-dera is one of the tallest in Japan.

Before entering the main temple, you have an opportunity (fee required) to visit the Zuigu-do hall housing the Tainai Meguri. You will then walk down the stairs into the pitch black tunnel symbolizing the womb of a female bodhisattva. Your return from darkness to light symbolizes being born again. In Buddhism, a bodhisattva is any person who is on the path towards Buddhahood.

The view from the temple during my visit was somewhat limited due to restoration. My photo below on your left shows the main temple as it was in late 2018 with the roof and walls covered. Restoration should be complete by early 2020. The next photo (below to your right) is a picture I took of a photo on the wall showing the temple in winter. It was so dramatic I just couldn’t resist.

The view from the stage (the large wooden deck) is a very popular sight when the cherry trees are in bloom and when the leaves of the maple trees in the valley below are donning their fall colors. My photo also gives you a sense of how large this place is. I came up on the left side of the temple where the red pagodas are located and then walked through the temple and came out on the right side.

From left to right: Kyoto on the horizon, red pagoda, and Kiyomizu-dera’s main hall.

From there, you can head left and further up steps along the steep mountain side while still remaining inside temple complex. Or, you can take a right as I did and keep walking through the other temple buildings. I was still within the temple complex when taking the photo across the valley and the top of trees.

Leaving Kiyomizu-dera, I walked through the bustling shopping area known as Sannenzaka which caters to tourists and those making religious pilgrimages to site. Throughout Sannenzaka and Kiyomizu-dera, you’ll see many students of field trips wearing their school uniforms, other visitors from throughout Asia wearing vibrant Kimonos, and still more with parasols.

Leaving Kiyomizu-dera, getting a bite to eat was next on my list. While I ate plenty of wonderful Japanese meals, finding food for my American palate seemed to be a daily adventure in Kyoto. This day was no different until…

I have never been so happy to see hot dogs and cappuccino on a menu in my life.

9 thoughts on “Kiyomizu-dera Temple – Kyoto, Japan

    1. Japan is an exciting trip to look forward. 😃 I have more locations/sites to share from my trip and it is fun to go back through those and remember. I was in Kyoto (Tokyo briefly) and would love to return again to see more. Hope you have a great time!

    1. Thank you Lyn, really appreciate the feedback on the photos. 😊 I loved Kyoto too. I saw a lot but left feeling like there was still much left to see.

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