Founded in 780, Kiyomizu-dera is not only one of the most beautiful temples in Japan, but also one of the most ancient. The name translates to “Pure Water Temple” which honours its location on the sacred Otowa Waterfall. Made up of three separate streams, the Otowa Waterfall is thought to bring longevity, intelligence and love to all who drink from it. That said, sipping from all three streams is considered greedy, so most visitors choose just one or two.
Along with its hallowed water Kiyomizu-dera is best known for its majestic wooden stage that extends from its main hall. It’s elevated high above the hillside, and offers stunning views over the cherry and maple covered hills, as well as the city of Kyoto on a clear day. Beyond the temple itself lie other sites, including the Jishu Shrine which celebrates the Japanese deity of love. Two stones are placed in front of the shrine, and it’s said those who can walk the 18-metre distance with their eyes closed will be blessed with a successful love life.
From Kiyomizu-Gojo Station the temple is a scenic 20-minute walk alongside the Keihan Railway Line. Buses drop visitors at the bottom of the hill, with an easy 10-minute climb to reach the entrance. Alternatively, the temple is a 15-minute drive from Kyoto city centre.
Steeped in ancient significance, Kiyomizu-dera was originally used by the Hosso sect, one of the country’s oldest and most revered Japanese Buddhism schools. In 1994, UNESCO recognised its historical and cultural value and inaugurated the temple as an official World Heritage Site.