Saturday, October 27, 2012

Kiyomizu-dera Temple

West Gate and Three Storied Pagoda

Kiyomizu-dera has one of the most enviable locations in Kyoto. Set in the wooded hills of eastern Kyoto, it has a commanding view of the city that was once the capital of Japan.  Kiyomizu-dera or the Pure Water Temple has been around since 778. It was named after the Otowa waterfall which flows down from a spring in the mountain above the hills. It is a Buddhist temple belonging to the Kita Hosso sect. 

Kiyomizu Stage

The Hondo or Main Hall was built in 1633. It has an impressive veranda known as the Kiyomizu Stage. It hangs 13 meters above the hillside and is supported by wooden pillars which were assembled without using a single nail. It is held together by wooden braces. The floor of the stage is made of cypress boards. The Hondo is considered a national treasure and is a Unesco World Cultural Heritage site.

The pillars supporting the stage

It's a quite a climb up the hill to the temple halls but there are several spots to stop and rest along the way. The stage can be crowded at times and there's nothing to do but wait for your turn to stand on the edge of the veranda to enjoy the views of Kyoto and the surrounding woods below.  On the way down, I paused often to admire the pillars supporting the stage. It's an amazing sight. 

Deva Gate and Kyoto in the distance

At the base of the hill in front of Deva Gate is Higashiyama District which is a corridor of souvenir shops and restaurants.  Some enterprising food shops offer tea to entice visitors to come in and check their treats.  This worked for me because chilled green tea was exactly what I needed after a long trek on a hot September day. 

There are several interesting halls to discover in the Kiyomizu-dera compound so plan to spend some time here. Note that Amida and Okunoin Halls are closed for renovations until early 2013.

There's a fee to enter Hondo Hall. Buses 100 and 206 stop at Kiyomizu-michi from Kyoto Station. It's a 10 minute walk from the bus stop.

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Images by Charie

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