Kiyomizu Dera – The Pure Water Temple
Located in eastern Kyoto, Kiyomizu-dera literally means "pure water" due to its situation on the site of a natural waterfall. A wonderful temple, find out everything you need to know with us.
Kyoto is packed full of temples and shrines, but Kiyomizu-dera is one that should not be forgotten, being as it is one of the crowning glories of Japanese temple architecture and design. Find out everything you need to know before you get there, right here.
Located in the Higashiyama district of Kyoto, Kiyomizu-Dera stands as one of the city’s (and country’s) most celebrated temples. Built in 778 on the site of the Otowa Waterfall in the foothills of the Higashiyama mountains, the temple was originally associated with the Hosso Sect of Japanese Buddhism, but since the mid-1960s has been independent.
Dedicated to Kannon, the deity of mercy and compassion, large numbers of visitors visit the temple to pay their respects to the many impressive Kannon statues.
Several fires have ravaged the building over the years, as is true with most temples of a similar age. In the mid-17th century, however, Shogun Tokugawa Iemitsu made it his personal mission to undertake renovations to restore Kiyomizu to its original glory.
The Temple has many different areas and buildings. We’ve laid out the highlights below:
The first building you will see before entering the temple is Nio-mon, the main entrance of Kiyomizu-dera Temple. It burnt down during the Onin War (1467-1477) but was reconstructed in the early 16th century. This large reddish two-story gate is 10 meters wide, 5 meters long, and 14 meters high and displays unique features of the era in which it was rebuilt. On each side of the gate, menacing lion-dogs act as guardians and chase away evil spirits.
Sai-mon is the second gate after the entrance. Once considered the gateway to paradise and as a sacred place for the meditative practice of Nissokan, it is now one of Kyoto’s top wedding photo spots.
Hondo (Main Hall)
Hondo is the name for Kiyomizu’s main hall. Standing on the edge of a steep cliff and surrounded by lush forest, it offers breathtaking views out toward the horizon. Although often crowded with photo-hungry visitors, it is nevertheless an unforgettable spot. Here you can also find one of the temple’s most impressive Kannon statues.
Zuigu-do Hall is dedicated to the Buddhist deities of matchmaking, safe birth and child rearing. The temple offers also a special tour for exploring the sanctified area underneath the hall, the tainai meguri, a holy cave where visitors are encouraged to find light in the darkness.
Kiyomizu-dera Temple was built under the Otawa Waterfall and is named in recognition of the pureness of the water. The clear, gushing waters have long been known as konjiki-sui (golden water) or enmei-sui (life-prolonging water) and are still used for purification. Visitors can drink or throw the water from each of the three streams, be purified and make a wish.
Particularly popular times to visit the shrine are the Momiji (autumn leaf) and Sakura (cherry blossom) seasons when Kiyomizu-Dera is lit up in a thousand colors in a real treat for the eyes. To enhance the beauty, Kiyomizu-dera temple has special illumination events in spring and autumn with special evening open hours.
Kiyomizu-dera Temple offers a special tour around the temple guided by an English-speaking priest for international visitors. For full details, visit the official site (below).
Mon – Sun
06.00am – 06.00pm*
Adult: 300 yen, Children: 200 yen
Higashiyama, Kyoto, Japan
Temple tours available
* during the illuminations events the temple is open until 9.00pm
From Kyoto Station, you can take bus 100 or 206 to Gojo- Zaka Station or Kiyomizu-michi Station. The journey takes around 30 minutes.
Alternatively, head to Kiyomizu-Gojo Station and walk for 20 minutes. Directions are available in the station and the route is mostly signposted.