Founded in the Heian Period (794-1185), Kiyomizudera is one of Kyoto’s most celebrated temples and one of seventeen World Heritage sites in the city. Founded on the site of the Otowa Waterfall – a feature that can still be seen today – and translating as ‘Pure Water Temple’, Kiyomizudera was sits atop 13 metre tall stilts that the support the temple itself and an immense open deck overlooking Kyoto. Offering a captivating view at all times of year, the temple is especially popular October and Novemeber when the surrounding maple trees transform in colour.
The main hall houses eleven-faced, thousand-armed statue of Kannon, Goddess of Mercy, while behind the main hall the Jishu Shrine is dedicated to love and matchmaking. Another shrine sits below the temple marks the Otowa Waterfall which divides into three separate streams. Visitors can drink the water – said to aid in longevity, academic performance and of course, finding love – although beware as drinking from all three is considered to be greedy and not advisable.
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Many visitors approach the temple through the equally-famous Higashiyama District. Located between Kiyomizudera and Yasaka Shrine, Higashiyama is one of Kyoto’s best-preserved historic districts. An enclave in which ‘old Kyoto’ lives on, the area retains the majority of its historic character with traditional buildings, including numerous stores, restaurants and residences lining the narrow streets. Always popular, the streets of Higashiyama will be crowded during the middle of the day. Most stores open between 9-10AM and close between 5-6PM.
The temple and Higashiyama attract tens of thousands of visitors each day – with the autumn months of October and November being especially popular thanks to the surrounding leaves – and can become very crowded at times. For that reason we recommend going in the early morning or late afternoon, which are typically quieter. Try to avoid the middle of the day when large tour groups and masses of other visitors fill the streets.