Kiyomizudera Temple (清水寺)

Monday, 8 January 2018

Known for its wooden stage extended from the main hall, Kiyomizudera Temple (清水寺) is probably one of the most famous temples in Kyoto if not Japan. The temple not only offers picturesque views of the skyline of Kyoto, it's a prime location to see maple or cherry blossom trees (depending on the time you visit) against a backdrop of traditional Japanese architecture. I have to say, some of my most favourite photos from our trip to Japan were taken at Kiyomizudera Temple.

Located in Higashiyama District (東山区), you will find that the street with the most people is one leading up to Kiyomizudera Temple. However, once you enter into the temple and get past the main entrance area, people will eventually start to thin out. We visited to temple at around 3:30pm and left at around 4:45pm. If the day was longer, I think we would've stayed another hour or so.

Upon entering the temple, one of the first stops you will most likely make is Jishu Shrine (地主神社), also known as the "Cupid of Japan" and is a shrine dedicated to love and matchmaking. However, the shrine is not only dedicated to single people, but rather relationships in general. We saw many couples who were praying to maintain a relationship and/or hope for lasting relationship.

Situated in the middle of the shrine is the famous "love stone" or the "love fortune telling stone". Instructions provide that if you walk safely from one stone to the other with your eyes closed, your wish will be granted very soon. If you can't, it will be a long time before your love is realised. Should you take guidance from someone to reach the other stone, you too will need assistance from third party to find true love. With the stones set 10 metres apart, I think it's a really cute exercise, but Sharon and I didn't do it because there was too many people aroundso we just touched it (haha).

Since we were at a love shrine, I bought myself a omamori (御守 or お守り) as a souvenir. Omamori are Japanese amulets or charms that are said to provide different forms of protection or luck. You purchase charms for couples, parents, friends and even pets! The charms can be associated to love, good health, prosperity and education.

Other than charms, you can also try your luck with omikuji (御御籤 or おみくじ), which are Japanese fortunes found at most Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines. You can draw a fortune from a box full of omikuji at a small fee, and if you choose a bad fortune, the practice is to tie it on the designated area of the shrine to leave the bad fortune behind.

Unfortunately, Kiyomizudera Temple's main hall or hondo (本堂) is covered up for renovation of its roof from February 2017 to March 2020 so we weren't able to view its full glory. Visitors were, however, still able to enter to main hall. It was dark and really smokey inside due to the lighting of incense candles, but what I found incredible is that no nails were used in its construction—just interlocking timber.

Our last stop at the temple was Otowa Waterfall (音羽の滝), situated at the base of the main hall. There are three separate streams of water from which visitors can use to catch with a ladle. Each stream of water is said to have a different benefit, such as bringing longevity, love and success, so drinking the water is said to make your wish come true. However, it's bad luck if you drink from all three streams because you will be considered greedy. When we reached the waterfall, there was already a long line of people waiting (and still forming) to have a drink of the "pure water". Sharon and I couldn't really be bothered waiting so we just headed for the exit instead.

Although the postcard view of Kiyomizudera Temple is covered in scaffolding, the temple is still one of the most beautiful and breathtaking temples I've ever been to. With impressively scenic views and lots to see and do inside the temple, it's easy to spend half a day there alone. And while the temple attracts a lot of tourists, it's a relatively large space so people do sparse out from time to time. (Apparently, the best time to visit is very early in the morning when it opens at 6:00am and an hour before it closes.) Thankfully, it wasn't too crowded when we visited, so we really enjoyed our time there. Unlike other temples in Kyoto which also charge an entry fee of about ¥500-¥600 for a mere walk around, paying ¥400 for Kiyomizudera Temple was worth every cent.

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