On the way to the temple, Japanese women dressed in their traditional kimono outfit. (Photo: Alexandra Dorovici)

The Ascent of Kiyomizu Temple

Kimonos and spring flowers

On the way to the temple, Japanese women dressed in their traditional kimono outfit. (Photo: Alexandra Dorovici)
Alexandra Dorovici   - 3 min read

Kiyomizu Temple (Kiyomizu-dera) is one of the most popular temples of Kyoto. It has been registered in 1994 on the UNESCO World Cultural Heritage List and is praised for its wonderful gardens and the outstanding views it has on the city. Kiyomizu-dera was named after the Otowa waterfall, that brings clear water from the hills to its gardens. Kiyoi Mizu means "pure water". It was constructed in year 778 and is located on the top of a hill on the eastern side of the city. Most of the buildings burnt down and had to be reconstructed in the Edo period.

On your way up to the temple, you will walk through the busy yet typical streets that surround this area, like Ninensaka and Sannenzaka, as there is no public transportation service in the temple's vicinity. This short hike is definitely worth the effort: you'll have a chance to peek at traditional shops, tea houses and bakeries, meet Japanese people dressed up in traditional outfits and even have a break to buy a souvenir.

The main temple is surrounded by many halls and sub-temples such as the Amitabha hall displaying an impressive statue of the Buddha or the Kaizan-do hall, the memorial hall. You enter the temple's area through a heavy gate, the Deva Gate, and have to pass by many halls to reach the main one. The hill's angle gives you the sensation that every building is gigantic, it's one of the most impressive garden I've seen in Kyoto.

If you look back once you've reached the top of the first set of stairs, you'll be able to see the city of Kyoto peeking behind the rooftops. There is a better sightseeing spot hidden on the southern side of the west gate, where you'll be able to enjoy a panoramic view of the eastern side of the city. This is one of the best free spots to have a look at Kyoto from above.

The Kiyomizu main hall dominates the complex in its bright colors and majestic appearance. It is held 13 meters above the floor on a wooden platform sustained by hundreds of heavy pillars. If you like architecture, this might be the place for you as Japanese people are very proud of the construction technique that was used on this temple.

I highly recommend you to visit Kiyomizu-dera if you visit the surrounding areas such as Gion. It's only a short walk from there and it's the best way to discover traditional Japanese architecture and to visit a typical Japanese area. I recommend you come early on a sunny day so you can have a clear view of the hills in the background.

More info

Find out more about Kiyomizu-dera Temple.

Alexandra Dorovici

Alexandra Dorovici @alexandra.cd