1. Kiyomizudera(Kiyomizu-dera Temple): Experiencing the Enduring Magnificence of Kyoto’s Iconic Temple

Kiyomizudera(Kiyomizu-dera Temple): Experiencing the Enduring Magnificence of Kyoto’s Iconic Temple

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Masaya Osada

Born and raised in Kyoto. I love traveling. The more I was exposed to foreign culture, the more I realized how fascinating Kyoto is. This is why I am writing this English article for you to make your trip in Kyoto much more enjoyable!

Kiyomizudera, a renowned temple in Kyoto, Japan, is a UNESCO World Heritage site offering insight into Japan’s cultural heritage. It is famous for its wooden stage overlooking the city and surrounding cherry and maple trees. 

The temple’s name, meaning “pure water,” comes from the Otawa Waterfall on its grounds, believed to bestow health and success to those who drink from it. 

The journey to the temple is lined with shops selling local specialties, enhancing the traditional experience. Kiyomizudera isn’t just a tourist spot; it’s an immersive cultural experience to cherish.

A Brief History of Kiyomizudera

The origin of Kiyomizudera dates back to 778 in the late Nara Period. At that time, a monk named Enchin, who was undergoing ascetic training in Nara, was guided by a dream to seek a pure spring north of the Kizu River. 

Following an oracle, Enchin arrived at Mount Otowa and found Otowa Waterfalls filled with pure water. 

He built a hermitage near the waterfall, received a sacred tree from Gyoeikoji, a monk who had been practicing there, and carved a statue of the thousand-armed Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva. 

Several years later, a samurai named Sakanoue Tamuramaro visited the area and was deeply moved by Enchin’s teachings. He enshrined the eleven-faced Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva as the principal deity and built a temple. 

The temple was named Kiyomizudera because of the clear water gushing out of it. I invite you to touch and drink the water and experience its history!

How to Get to Kiyomizudera

Taking a bus is recommended for traveling from Kyoto Station to Kiyomizudera. This is because direct buses are available, eliminating the need for transfers. 

It’s common to take a bus to either Kiyomizu-michi or Gojo-zaka, and then walk to Kiyomizudera from there. The journey takes approximately 30 minutes, and the fare is reasonable at 230 yen one way.

There are several bus routes operating from Kyoto Station to Kiyomizudera, with a considerable frequency of buses. Therefore, if it’s not too crowded, you should be able to travel smoothly.

Hours and Entrance Fees

Opening Hours

Kiyomizudera opens at 6:00 a.m. and closes at 6:00 p.m., but closes at 9:30 p.m. during special periods in spring, summer, and fall.

Since the temple is crowded during the day, it is recommended to visit in the early morning or evening.

Closed Days

Kiyomizudera is open all year round. You can visit the temple anytime during the opening hours.

Entrance Fee

The admission fee to Kiyomizudera is 400 yen.




A YouTuber is providing a brief explanation about Kiyomizudera. If you’re interested, please take a look for a better understanding.


7 Highlights of Kiyomizudera

The time required to visit Kiyomizudera varies depending on interest and crowds. 

If you just want to look around the temple, including the main hall, 30-45 minutes should be enough. However, if you want to see most of the temple grounds, it will take one to two hours. 

Especially during the spring and fall seasons, the temple is extremely crowded. I recommend that you plan accordingly when visiting Kiyomizudera. Here are seven must-see spots. Please refer to the map below.


Map of Kiyomizudera



1. Nio-mon – Map1


On the left stands the Nio-mon, while on the right, you’ll find the Sai-mon.

It is the main gate of Kiyomizudera and the first building you see when visiting the temple. It is characterized by its vermilion exterior and the statue of Kongorikishi.

Even more eye-catching are the komainu (guardian dogs) standing in front of the gate. These komainu are special in that both of them have their mouths open.

This represents the Buddhist teaching of “impermanence”–the philosophical idea that everything changes and is not eternal.When you visit Kiyomizudera, please take a good look at these komainu.

 2. Sai-mon (West gate) – Map2

A sacred place for “Nissoukan” and one of the best sunset viewing spots in Kyoto

In Buddhist practice, there is a meditation technique called “Nissokan” or “Contemplation of the Setting Sun.” 

During this meditation, practitioners visualize the Pure Land while facing westward, where the sun sets. As the Pure Land is believed to be located in the west, observing the setting sun in the west aids in self-reflection. 

The West Gate holds particular significance as a location for Nissokan. Taking a moment to stop and meditate here in the evening can be a wonderful experience.

3. Zuigu-do Hall – Map3


A special experience can be had at Zuigu-do Hall. It is called “Tainai-meguri,” a wish-fulfillment ceremony through a dark path. If there are few people, it can take 4 or 5 minutes to experience.

In the dark path, it is difficult to see. There are ropes shaped like beads that are meant to help guide people through the path. Following the beads in the darkness is like an adventure. You will be relieved when you see a ray of light! 

The presence of light, once taken for granted in everyday life, may indeed become a reason to be grateful for everything.

4. Hondo (Main hall) – Map4

Wooden architecture on a cliff

The main deity, Senju Kannon Bosatsu, is enshrined.Reconstructed in 1633.

The main hall is characterized by its “kake-zukuri” style. Kake-zukuri is a construction method in which pillars are erected on a slope, such as a cliff, to support a building. 

The Architecture of Hondo (Main hall)




The main hall of Kiyomizudera Temple is built on the steep slope of Mount Otowa and is particularly famous for its overhanging area called the stage. 

From the stage, one can enjoy a panoramic view of the city of Kyoto, which can be enjoyed by all.

The stage was also the origin of the proverb “Jump off the stage of Kiyomizu”. 

Its origin lies in the tradition of jumping off the stage in honor of the suffering of Kannon Bosatsu, the Goddess of Mercy. In modern times, the proverb has come to mean “to make a momentous decision”.

5. Okuno-in Hall – Map5


Okuno-in Hall stands directly above Otowa Waterfall, the origin of Kiyomizudera, and overlooks the entire main hall. It is the best place to take pictures of Kiyomizudera!

It is said to be the site of the hermitage where Gyoeikoji and Enchin, the founders of Kiyomizudera, practiced asceticism. The current building was rebuilt in 1633. It is built in the same “kake-zukuri” style as the main hall.

6. Otowa no taki (Otowa Waterfall)- Map6

Waterfall water that has flowed uninterrupted for a long time

Otowa Waterfalls is a waterfall of pure water from which Kiyomizudera takes its name. 

Known since ancient times as “life-enhancing water” and “golden water,” it is believed to be beneficial for matchmaking, academic achievement, and longevity. 

The waterfall is divided into three streams, each representing different benefits. 

The rightmost one from the front is for “prolongation of life and longevity,” the middle one for “fulfillment of love,” and the leftmost one for “fulfillment of academic achievement. 

It is good manners to make a wish after drinking only a sip of water. It is said that if you drink too much, your wish will not come true.


Other Useful Information


Kiyomizudera Temple hosts many events throughout the year. Here are some of the most famous events.

Special Night Viewing

Three times a year in spring, summer, and fall, the temple grounds are lit up and visitors can enjoy a fantastic night time special viewing.

Seiryu-e Dragon Festival

Seiryu-ei is a festival dedicated to Seiryu Gongen, the chief deity of Kiyomizudera. It is held annually on September 15. On the day of the festival, a Buddhist memorial service is held in the main hall, followed by a procession of the Seiryu Gongen portable shrine through the temple grounds.

Thousand-Day Pilgrimage

It is said that if you visit Kannon on this day, you will receive blessings for a thousand days, and it is the day of greatest merit for Kannon. Many people visit the shrine to seek blessings.

Jishu Shrine and Love Fortune Stones

Jishu Shrine is located right next to Kiyomizudera. Jishu Shrine is famous as the “god of marriage” and is visited by many people seeking a good match. 

It is also registered as a World Heritage site, and its history dates back to the Jomon period. Unfortunately, the shrine is currently under construction and cannot be visited.


The official website provides the latest event information and updates. Be sure to check it before your visit.


Kiyomizudera is not just a place to visit, but an experience to be lived

Kiyomizudera has undergone numerous restorations and renovations since its construction, each time reviving the temple’s charm and breathing new life into it.

Kiyomizudera holds a special place in my heart, not only for its historical legacy, but also as a place that embodies the aesthetic and spirituality of the Japanese people. I am deeply moved by its majestic appearance and solemn atmosphere, and I never get tired of visiting it again and again.