Kiyomizudera: Full of Surprises
Photos of Kiyomizudera always show the temple’s signature wooden verandah, constructed in the Edo period, framed by sakura or maple leaves—the temple is incredibly popular in spring and autumn. A temple this size is rarely seen outside of Tokyo and Osaka.
Kiyomizudera’s many corners conceal hidden surprises.
- Kiyomizudera: Full of Surprises
- A Video Guide to Kiyomizudera
- Tainai-Meguri: A Walk Through Pitch Darkness
- The Veranda: Amazing Views
- Jishu-Jinja: The Shrine of Love
- Otowa Waterfall (Otowa no Taki)
- Opening Hours & Admission
- How to Get There
- A 4K Video Tour of Kiyomizudera & Surrounding Area
- Top Attractions in Kyoto
- Top Attractions in Arashiyama
Despite its status as one of Kyoto’s most popular temples, Kiyomizudera has the charm of a smaller shrine with a festive atmosphere. Set time aside to get to know its secrets and be rewarded with a taste of pure Japan.
You reach Kiyomizudera by following a cobblestone path winding uphill past traditional souvenir and tea shops. Called Teapot-hill (Chawan-zaka), the street is among Kyoto’s most scenic and well preserved. Allow yourself time to explore.
Kiyomizudera’s atmosphere is a major factor in its charm, and that includes its surrounding streets.
A Video Guide to Kiyomizudera
Tainai-Meguri: A Walk Through Pitch Darkness
Before the main entrance to the temple stands Tainai-meguri . This is a walk through an underground “cave” in virtual darkness, which is symbolic of the journey towards enlightenment.
Tainai means “womb,” and meguri means “to walk around, or visit.” Going into this underground world of darkness is symbolic of entering the womb of a female Bodhisattva.
You take off your shoes before descending down the stairs, and hold on to a handrail that will guide you through the dark. You’ll find a stone at the end of this journey. Spin this stone and make a wish before you exit.
It is worth the extra 100 yen to follow the passage into pitch darkness, emerging at the end, if not enlightened, then definitely with a new appreciation for your vision.
The Veranda: Amazing Views
Once inside, the crowds shuffle you forward to the main attraction, the veranda (located in the Main Hall, or Hondo in Japanese).
Thirteen meters high, and built on a hill overlooking Kyoto, it offers beautiful views of the city that become hazy from mid-afternoon. Smoke from sticks of incense dance lazily in the air.
Many people pause to take a photo here. If you do, it is best not to think about the fact the entire temple was constructed without nails!
Jishu-Jinja: The Shrine of Love
Turning left as you leave the temple will take you to a smaller shrine devoted to love; Jishu-jinja.
One of the attractions are two large stones on the ground in front of the shrine. If you can walk the eighteen meters from one rock to the other with your eyes closed, you’ll succeed in finding the love of your life.
It may seem easy, but walking in a straight line with your eyes closed is harder than you think! Love charms and fortunes abound here, as do interesting fashion choices. Jishu-jinja is especially popular with Kyoto’s young women.
Otowa Waterfall (Otowa no Taki)
Past Jishu-jinja you can descend the steps to Otowa-no-taki, the waterfall that gives the temple its name—kiyomizu means “clean, or pure water.”
Be sure to taste the sacred waters for yourself. It’s free. Simply join the line for one of the long-handled ladle. Pour the water from the ladle into your hand and then drink—watch other tourists to see the technique.
Or you can follow the winding path through the trees for the pagoda, which offers the best views of the temple itself. Most tourists don’t bother exploring this path, so the walk is a nice escape from the bustle of Kyoto, even at peak tourist seasons. Here is a photo opportunity you don’t have to fight for!
Tea shops line the path back to the main entrance selling green tea and a snack. Nothing special, but the chance to rest, especially during summer, is welcome.
Opening Hours & Admission
Weekdays: 6:00am – 6:00pm
Weekends and holidays (mid-April – July, August and September): 6:00am – 6:30pm
There are special events where the closing hours change. Check the Kiyomizudera website for more information.
Admission is 400 yen for the Main Tower.
How to Get There
Kiyomizudera is most easily accessible by taxi or bus—finding legal bicycle or car parking is difficult and can result in a long walk!
From JR Kyoto Station, take the city bus No. 206 bound for the Kitaoji Bus Terminal via Higashihama-dori. Or you take bus No. 100 Ginkaku-ji via Kiyomizudera Gion. Get off at Gojozaka and walk east for about 10 minutes.
On Saturdays and holidays, Kyoto Bus No. 18 headed for Ohara also stops at Gojozaka.
The nearest subway station, Keihan Kiyomizudera Gojo Station is a 25 – 30 minute walk to the temple.