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Kiyomizu-dera Temple ( Kyoto, Japan)

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Address: Japan Kyoto Prefecture / Kyoto, Higashiyama Ward / Japan

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      01.10.2013 21:57
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      Fascinating temple on the outskirts of Kyoto.

      Kiyomizudera (literally "Pure Water"), also known as Kiyomizu Temple, is a very famous Buddhist temple in Kyoto, Japan. Although Kiyomizudera was founded in 780 it has been knocked down and rebuilt time and time again. In 1994 it became a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and today it is one of Kyoto's most popular tourist attractions.

      Kyoto is filled to the brim with temples and shrines and I almost overlooked Kiyomizudera since I was afraid of being "templed out" by the end of our trip. However, my sister (who has been in Japan for the past year) had visited Kiyomizudera in March and told us that, if we only wanted to visit a couple of temples, this was one we couldn't miss out. So on one boiling Thursday morning my sister, cousin and I got onto a packed city bus to see why this place is on most tourists' 'must-see' lists.

      ==---Location---==

      Kiyomizudera is located in wooded hills towards the east side of Kyoto. The most convenient way to get there is taking either the 100 or 206 bus from Kyoto Station to Gojo-zaka or Kiyomizu-michi bus stop. The bus fare is a flat rate of ¥220 one way, although day tickets can be bought at the station for ¥500. The bus should take around 15 minutes to reach the stop (however the 100 is an express bus, meaning it stops at only the main bus stops and thus goes much faster). Alternatively, if you would rather catch the train, the temple is 20 minute walk away from Kiyomizu-Gojo Station on the Keihan Railway line, which is again accessible from Kyoto Station (¥270 for the whole journey).

      ==---Getting to the Top---==

      As stated earlier, Kiyomizudera is located on hills. The paths to the top are daunting but not very steep; also the paths are smooth and there aren't really any steps that might hinder wheelchair users. It helps that the main path up to the temple approach at Gojo-zaka is along the Hiyagahima district, meaning that there are plenty of shops and restaurants along the way to either take a break and/or browse the Kiyomizudera-related souvenirs. Above all, if you happen to be there in the height of summer mid-morning as we were, there are ice-cream shops and the ever-so-common vending machines to keep you alive!

      It's worth noting that there is more than one path up to the Kiyomizudera Temple. For example, we took a wrong turn at the entrance and ended up going up a path that was next to a large cemetery. Since it was Obon season (a time when the Japanese travel back to their hometowns and pay respect to their dead ancestors) we felt very awkward going up a path that was obviously not used by tourists!

      ==---Temple Area---==

      Once you reach the main grounds there are several buildings dotted around the temple grounds. All the buildings are beautiful even though I didn't know the function of most, but still they looked Buddhist and they looked pretty and that's what matters. Apparently a couple of buildings are undergoing construction at the moment, but during my visit I was so overwhelmed by what was available that I didn't notice!
      The most important bit ought to be Kiyomizudera Main Hall, a colourful red and white building which serves as an entrance of sorts. However, our favourite is the Koyasu Pagoda. To reach there, you have to enter the wooden stage leading out behind the hall. This houses the main deity of Kiyomizu Temple, the thousand armed Kannon, whom many of the Japanese tourists took the time to pray to (NB: you cannot take pictures of the inner temple).
      The path between the wooden stage and the Koyasu Pagoda gives you some stunning aerial views over the forest below us and Kyoto in the distance, so it's an absolute must to take the diversion. You can also head to Jishu Shrine, a shrine dedicated to love and matchmaking, if you relish a challenge. See, at the front of the shrine are two stones placed far apart. If you make your way from one stone to the other blindfolded, it will give you good luck in finding your true love. Since our little group was not too fussed with the 'true love' bit, we gave it a pass.
      Heading back from Koyasu Pagoda we passed Otawa Waterfall. To be honest, it looks more like a spring than a waterfall, as a little stone construction has been built over it and the water is being filtered into three streams. Visitors could drink from any of the streams using the cups with long handles to collect the water. Apparently, each stream gives you a different benefit, but I never tried drinking them due to the length of the queue!
      Back towards the temple entrance is a small souvenir shop selling various Japanese temple charms, but like I said earlier, the approach has several similar shops which sell similarly priced goods, so I decided to pass on buying anything at the temple itself (I'm aware now that it might have been more authentic, but I was going to visit at least one more temple or shrine selling similar goods, so what did it matter?).

      ==---Overall---==

      Kiyomizudera is a beautiful temple. It has beautiful buildings in an excellent location. Even if you don't care much for temples it's still an interesting excursion and provides some stunning views out over Kyoto and forests below. Would I go there again? Certainly... but not in mid-August. Kyoto is much hotter than Tokyo (although not as humid) and by the mid-morning the temperature was already around 30°c on the day of our visit, making walking around unbearable without a sit-down every 15 minutes or so. Moreover, the temple was very crowded with both international and Japanese tourists, the former being families who had taken time off for the Obon season. The temple is apparently not that much quieter during spring and autumn (my sister, who as I said went in March, said that there were plenty of school groups visiting on the day she went). Nevertheless, with the changing leaves in autumn and the cherry blossom blooming in spring, I imagine the scenery will be much prettier in those seasons, plus the weather would be a lot more suitable for going out and about!
      With an incredibly cheap admission price of ¥300 (£1.92 by today's current exchange rate) there is no reason why you shouldn't visit Kiyomizudera while you're staying around Kyoto!

      Opening Times: 6am - 6pm
      Admission: ¥300 for adults, ¥150 I think for children.

      (Review also on Ciao under the username Anti_W).

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